Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Glass Forest - Review and Guest Post

Idgie Says:
This story is told from the viewpoints of the three main female characters; a 17 year old girl, a 21 year old wife and mother, and the older missing mother.  Ruby, the 17 year old, speaks in third person, which of course sets you up to feel that something is quite off with her. Silja's story is told in past tense, leading up to the time she goes missing.

There are mysterious elements surrounding all of the adults, except for Angie, who you simply begin to believe is in over her head in a situation that she doesn't understand.

As I read the novel I felt like more of an outsider watching events occur through a window instead of immersing myself in the story.  While the story was interesting, I failed to engage with the characters.  I did find Silja's storyline the most interesting and was invested in discovering why she left so suddenly.... if that's truly what happened.

This is definitely a psychological suspense novel, delving more into personalities and reasoning than shock and awe plot.  

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookseller comes a gripping literary suspense novel set in the 1960s about a deeply troubled family and three women who will reveal its dark truths.

In the autumn of 1960, Angie Glass is living an idyllic life in her Wisconsin hometown. At twenty-one, she’s married to charming, handsome Paul, and has just given birth to a baby boy. But one phone call changes her life forever.

When Paul’s niece, Ruby, reports that her father, Henry, has committed suicide, and that her mother, Silja, is missing, Angie and Paul drop everything and fly to the small upstate town of Stonekill, New York to be by Ruby’s side.

Angie thinks they’re coming to the rescue of Paul’s grief-stricken young niece, but Ruby is a composed and enigmatic seventeen-year-old who resists Angie’s attempts to nurture her. As Angie learns more about the complicated Glass family, staying in Henry and Silja’s eerie and ultra-modern house on the edge of the woods, she begins to question the very fabric of her own marriage.

Through Silja’s flashbacks, Angie’s discovery of astonishing truths, and Ruby’s strategic dissection of her parents’ state of affairs, a story of love, secrets, and ultimate betrayal is revealed.

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (February 6, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1501172093
  • ISBN-13: 978-1501172090

Writing a Character-Driven Thriller

By Cynthia Swanson

Thrillers are often described as plot-driven. There’s a mystery to be solved, and as readers we’re following the action primarily to answer to the question “whodunit”? We speed through the pages looking for clues about the culprit. Was it the boyfriend, or the husband? Or that seemingly random guy our heroine met at the airport? Maybe someone from her past? Who did it? Who?

While this question is vital for any narrative featuring an unsolved riddle, there’s a deeper aspect to certain thrillers. What sets a character-driven thriller apart from standard mystery is that, in addition to wondering who, we also wonder why. The book becomes not just a whodunit, but also a whydunit?

This is where character development comes in. In a character-driven thriller (i.e., a whydunit), a well-rounded cast is vital. Stereotypes and tropes play no part in this type of story. Whydunit readers want to understand the psychology behind characters’ actions. If the perpetrator is male and the victim is female (not always the case, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume so in this example), the bad guy can’t be bad just because that’s his nature. Likewise, the victim cannot simply become a victim because she’s foolish or lacking in reasoning skills.

With a character-driven thriller, we want more. We want to understand that perp’s history. How did he become this way? What happened in his past that made him capable of such a crime? Likewise for the victim: how has her journey changed over the course of the story? What happened to put her in the predicament she’s in?

Character-driven thrillers are sometimes described as having a “slow burn.” That may be true; often, in this type of story, it takes time to learn about these characters and why they do what they do. This, however causes the resolution – when we finally reach it – to be all the more satisfying.

If you start reading a character-driven thriller and find yourself unsure where it’s going, I encourage you to stick with it. The story may not have the formulaic plot of a standard mystery, but if the novel is a well-written whydunit, you’ll learn a great deal about why things turn out the way they do. As you read the final pages and close the book, you’re likely to feel a level of reading satisfaction even greater than you feel at the end of a classic whodunit.

Cynthia Swanson is the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookseller: A Novel, which is soon to be a movie starring Julia Roberts. Her second novel, a character-driven thriller titled The Glass Forest, released on February 6, 2018. Cynthia lives in Denver, CO with her family. Find her at