The Lying Woods


Owen Foster is from the small town of Lake Cane in Louisiana, where his father has done exceedingly well in the fracking business. Because of this, Owen attends a hoity-toity private school several hours away.  It took him a little while to fit in, but fit in he did, forming good friendships and excelling in academics and sports.  He is living the high school dream, but he is not unaware of his fortunate circumstances, and he appreciates them. With his parents he takes plenty of nice vacations, has an extravagant home base, wants for nothing.  This all comes crashing down when his father, Robert, disappears with millions of dollars, bringing his company to ruin and wrecking the lives of most of the Lake Cane community, whose livelihoods depended on the firm.  Neither Owen nor his mom know where papa has fled to.

Owen abruptly must return home.  He and his mother are forced to live with his very uncharitable Aunt Lucinda in what used to be his mother’s family home.  He must go to the local public school, where he faces daunting social rejection from his classmates as well as from the town at large, all of whom hold him responsible for his father’s behavior and/or are convinced that he and his mother have money hoarded somewhere.  To his credit, Owen shows up and makes the attempt to apologize and integrate, while at the same time standing up for himself as an innocent victim. Needless to say, this situation creates a great deal of tension in the story.

By “accident,” Owen is steered toward the pecan orchard of a notable recluse in the town, who hires him to help bring in the pecan harvest and to help restore a big ole house on the property that has fallen into rack and ruin.  In the course of telling this aspect of the story, the reader learns interesting things about how pecan trees are nurtured and harvested. Coming from a part of the country where this is a notable enterprise, I enjoyed reading about this.

Interwoven with Owen’s present-day story is another story taking place on the grounds of the pecan orchard a generation or so earlier, so the reader has to do a mental shift from chapter to chapter to adjust to which narrative is being advanced.

Mystery abounds, holds the attention, deepens rather dramatically toward the end of the book, and is satisfactorily resolved.

There are a few unreformed reprobates in the book, but for the most part the characters both young and old grow and progress in their insights, responses, and hope for the future.

Bad language abounds on just about every page, often more than once on a page.  I don’t recall any religious profanity, however. There is teenage sex resulting in an unplanned pregnancy, but it is not overly descriptive.  No moral stance is taken on the pregnancy, although the girl feels pressured into marriage.

Aside from the language and sex caveats, this is an interesting, thoughtful book that will keep readers engaged right up until the very last page.

Categories: Books We Recommend, Bullying, Crime, Diversity, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships

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