Saturday, September 3, 2016

Arrowood by Laura McHugh

Arden Arrowood returns home to Keokuk, Iowa after her father dies and she inherits the family home, a grand place called Arrowood that holds a whole lot of sadness and unanswered questions.  Arden's twin sisters Violet and Tabitha disappeared from Arrowood's front lawn one September afternoon, 17 years before.  They weren't quite 2 years old, and Arden was 8 years old.  She feels responsible for their disappearance, as she was playing with them outside when she wasn't supposed to be; when her back was turned, they were snatched by someone in a gold car and never seen again.  Their kidnapping became one of the most famous mysteries in Iowa history, and people still whisper about it.  

Arden's life has been difficult.  Her mother and father divorced; her mother is remarried to an evangelist and living in Minnesota.  She still pops pills, drinks and watches HSN. Arden's mother doesn't really want much to do with her daughter.   Arden's father was a wanderer, a con man, and a disappointment to Arden's grandfather, the owner of Arrowood.  Such a disappointment that he forbade his son from living in the family home.  It sat empty for years, until his death.  Now Arden has returned because she has nowhere else to go and is at a crossroads in her life.  

Josh contacts Arden regarding a book he is writing about the Arrowood kidnapping.  He believes he has proof that the man who was accused of kidnapping the twins (but never charged with their disappearance) has been telling the truth all along, that he was innocent.  Could Arden's memories of that day be wrong?  If so, what really happened to the Violet and Tabitha?  Could they still be alive, somewhere?

But Arden's stay in the house is a bit eerie.  Water drips down windows, the giant claw-foot tub in the bathroom leaks.  Sometimes she thinks she feels her sisters around her.  Is it her imagination, or are they messages from beyond?

I enjoyed this novel, but I was hoping for a bit more supernatural spookiness.  Laura McHugh does a very good job of portraying a town haunted by its past, and the destruction that can happen to a family when tragedy visits and leaves unanswered questions.  I felt bad for Arden.  Her life was profoundly changed by the disappearance of her little sisters, and her guilt at not keeping them safe.  You may be surprised by the ending, or not. 

Rating:  6/10 for a good read with a main character who is complex because she's had such a messed up life.  Secondary characters round it all out to bring in that small town feel of secrets, gossip, and hidden passions.  

Available in hardcover and e-book.


  1. Thanks for your review. I think I will skip this one.

  2. The review is great but IDK if this is one for me.

    1. I think the author has a lot of potential. It reminded me of Heather Gudenkauf's novels.