Skip to main content

All Things Cease to Appear Bets On...

All Things Cease to Appear

March 2016

Years ago, I read THE DOCTOR’S WIFE by Elizabeth Brundage. If I was picking Bets On titles back then, it would have been one. Elizabeth is an author who takes her time writing, thus time passes between her books. Picking up ALL THINGS CEASE TO APPEAR reminded me of why I like her work; it’s not just the story, it’s her talent as a wordsmith. This is not a skim-and-digest book, but rather one in which the pace builds slowly while you are surrounded by writing that is both lush and descriptive. I read Elizabeth’s work more slowly than I do many others. I find myself wrapped up in the descriptions and writing, both of which are deep and full of nuances.

Last week, I attended an event where Elizabeth read and introduced the audience to each of the key characters. As their stories were told, I saw the town and felt like I knew these people. The town is also a character here, and readers quickly pick up on the quiet desperation that is part of many of the upstate New York towns that once thrived and now are struggling. Elizabeth lives in upstate New York and knows many towns like this, which have abandoned farms and where regentrification has not quite touched.

The story starts sharply (pun intended) in 1979 when George Clare shows up at a neighbor’s house with his young daughter, Franny, in his arms, bearing news that his wife, Catherine, has been killed with an ax while he was at the local college where he teaches art history. From the start, we all know it’s George who murdered her, but we need to figure out why. We learn that George’s past is checkered with other moments whereby those who got in his way are now gone. He also has invented a lot of his history to suit his needs. You read to try to understand him, including why he announces the death of his wife in such a matter-of-fact way.

The 200-acre farm has a back story, and the home there has seen its share of sadness, which is told through the voices of the sons who lived there. The place had some moments of warmth, but more have housed unhappiness and desperation.

This is a book with a slow open, so plan to settle in, meet the characters and savor the writing. It’s not the traditional run-and-gun thriller. Once you recognize the pacing, you will find yourself kicking it back a notch as you get inside George’s head. The pace of the second half of the book is more brisk as George is unraveled.

Elizabeth based the book on an unsolved mystery that she read about and stuck with her; the alleged killer is still at large. Chilling, right? You can read more about the Behind the Book here. Also, Elizabeth’s Instagram has some terrific photographs of scenes from upstate for those who want to see more of the landscape that defines this work.

All Things Cease to Appear
by Elizabeth Brundage