Seattle author David Guterson seems to have a thing about trees. You may have heard of one of his earlier books, Snow Falling on Cedars. Not only was this story, set on a fishing island in the Puget Sound, a critical and commercial success, but it was also turned into a film in 1999 starring Ethan Hawke and Max von Sydow. It told the story of a reporter for a small-town newspaper covering a murder trial, where, he slowly comes to suspect, racial prejudice begins to lead a man to his fate regardless of the innocence or guilt of his actions. It was an atmosphere-drenched, astute book, and it won Guterson the PEN/Faulkner Award.
This fall, Guterson returns to the woods with Our Lady of the Forest, a novel that finds him once again mining the resonances of a small, distant and strange rural community that's experiencing a slow economic and cultural death. But when a runaway teenage girl starts having visions of the Virgin Mary, the larger world takes notice, and the community has to confront forces that threaten to change it forever.
Guterson, who can blend his characters' psychologies into the landscapes they inhabit with a skill almost unique among novelists, traces the lives and motivations of four different characters through the book, as he traces the paths of intersection between religion and commerce, faith and desire, and freedom and compulsion.
On Dec. 5, hopefully under overcast skies, perhaps with a touch of rain or snow as a backdrop, Guterson will read from Our Lady of the Forest at Auntie's in Spokane.
Publication date: 09/11/03