by Genanne Walsh
Tornados are symbolic of ongoing verbal arguments, fighting and emotional tension in relationships. In dream analysis, they represent emotional upheaval, destructive behavior, and sudden change. I enjoyed this symbolism employed by author Genanne Walsh in her first novel, Twister: the approaching storm mimicking the building tension in nine small town characters' lives.
Part One of the book takes place on the day a tornado is predicted to hit. Walsh's decision to use multiple points of view—each character struggling with inner turmoil and personal issues—adds a mixture of perspectives and makes for a tension-filled read. Among the characters, Rose, the protagonist, is a grieving mother who has suffered multiple losses over the years; the last and most recent—her soldier son, Lance—has pushed her sanity to its limits. Stella, Rose's estranged stepsister, is trying to wedge her way back into Rose's life. Sylvie (Sill) Brown, the teenage neighbor girl who loved Lance since they were young children, now mourns his death quietly and alone. Perry Brown, Sill's father, and Rose's long-time neighbor wants Rose's acreage, but he is torn between his desire for the land and his conscience. And Ward Mondragon is the local shopkeeper with a skeleton in his closet.
Part Two opens up to the past, revealing secrets and enticing tidbits that explain how and why the characters come to be where they are on the day of the twister. The pieces of the puzzle come together as the story returns to present day, post-touchdown. We get the sense that the tension and anger building throughout Part One are sucked into the vortex and carried off as the storm continues its destructive journey.
Early in Rose's life, as she prepares to leave behind her in-town life to move to fiancÚ Theo's farm, she expresses to her father her hope that they can have a good life on the farm. He replies: "We live from hope to hope, my darlin' lass." So very true.
Walsh maintains that nice balance of action and dialogue throughout to advance this story of hope and forgiveness. Her unique voice, along with the movement between time periods, keeps the story fresh and interesting.
I gave this book the highest rating but would have felt more grounded if the author had indicated a specific year in which the story starts out, and had also given the small town a name. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this first-time novel by Genanne Walsh.
Read an excerpt from this book.
Genanne Walsh is the author of Twister, awarded the Big Moose Prize for the Novel from Black Lawrence Press. Twister was also a finalist for the Brighthorse Prize. Excerpts from the novel appeared in earlier form in Puerto del Sol, Blackbird, and Red Earth Review. She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College and lives in San Francisco with her wife and dog. Visit her website.
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