Arrowood by Laura McHugh

Laura McHugh is making me fall in love with gothic mysteries all over again. Her debut novel, The Weight of Blood took readers deep into the Ozarks, and her new novel, Arrowood takes readers to a decaying and haunted Keokuk, Iowa along the Mississippi River. Mood and setting play as important a role in these stories as plot and character.


In Arrowood, Arden Arrowood returns to the home that bears her family’s name and is also the location of a childhood tragedy when 8-year-old Arden’s 2-year-old twin sisters disappeared from their front yard. This incident defines Arden’s life as well as her family and neighbor’s. When Arden returns to Arrowood upon her father’s death, she finds herself consumed in the mystery and discovers that the house and the town hold many more secrets than she ever suspected.


McHugh has a special knack for capturing small towns and rural areas with all their signs of past splendor and facades that hide the decay going on behind them in both their structures and their inhabitants. She infuses both her settings and her characters with a haunted feeling. Arden is fixated on the day her twin sisters went missing and the altered course upon which it set everyone’s lives. Arden is a history student doing a thesis on nostalgia, and nostalgia is a theme that permeates the book;  Arden’s memories of her childhood home during happier times and Keokuk’s nostalgia for its prouder days when it was prosperous and filled with wealth and dreams.


Arden is a fascinating character who has never given up hope of learning what happened to her sisters. She clings to their memory as well as the memory of happier times in her childhood, including her friend, Ben. Clinging to these memories though has locked her in a sort of stasis which prevents her from moving forward. Coming home has begun to unlock secrets that no one is sure they want revealed. With the help of a mystery site blogger, Arden continues probing into her sister’s disappearance. What she finds makes her begin to doubt her own recollection of events and leads to a powerful and moving conclusion.


Arrowood is a wonderful novel that will haunt you long after you reach the final page. Laura McHugh has become must read. Highly recommended.


I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Description: Arrowood is the most ornate and beautiful of the grand historical houses that line the Mississippi River in southern Iowa, where the days are long and humid and communities are small and closed. It has its own secrets and ghostly presence: It's where Arden's young twin sisters were abducted nearly twenty years ago—never to be seen again. Now, Arden has inherited Arrowood, and she returns to her childhood home determined to establish what really happened that traumatic summer. But the house and the surrounding town hold their secrets close—and the truth, when Arden finds it, is more devastating than she ever could have imagined.


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