NORTH WOODS. By Daniel Mason : Mason's ambitious, kaleidoscopic novel ushers readers over the threshold of a house in the wilds of western Massachusetts and leaves us there for 300 years and almost 400 pages.

One after another, in sections interspersed with letters, poems, song lyrics, diary entries, medical case notes, vintage botanical illustrations and assorted ephemera not normally bound into the pages of a novel, we get to know the inhabitants of the place from colonial times to present day.

There's an apple farmer, an abolitionist and a wealthy manufacturer. A pair of beetles. A landscape painter. A ghost. Their lives [ and deaths ] intersect, but mostly layer over each other in dazzling decoupage.

EXCERPT : They had come to the spot in the freshness of June, chased from the village by its people, following deer path through the forest, the valleys, the fern groves, and the quaking bogs.

Fast they ran! Stream rose from the fens and meadows. Bramble tore at their clothing, shredding it to rags that hung about their shoulders. They crashed through thickets, hid in tree hollows and bear caves, rattling sticks before they slipped inside.

They fled as if it were a child's game, as if they had made off with plunder. My plunder, he whispered, as he touched her lips.

The World Students Society thanks The New York Times.


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