cover image The Den

The Den

Abi Maxwell. Knopf, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-525-65528-2

The disappearance of two women from different times forms the center of Maxwell’s affecting latest (after Lake People). Twelve year-old Jane and her 15-year-old sister, Henrietta, spent hours playing in the ruins of a cottage in their family’s woods in New Hampshire as children. Their father regularly tells them the legend of the disappearance of the Ross family, who lived in the cabin in the mid-19th century. Henrietta no longer plays with Jane and pursues an intense, secret relationship with Kaus, a local boy. Immature Jane is hurt by this rejection and snoops around to watch them, only half understanding the arguments between her parents and Henrietta. After the family’s barn burns down, Jane, worried she may have accidentally caused the fire with a cigarette she was secretly smoking, claims to have seen Kaus running from the building. A few months after Kaus is sent to a juvenile detention center, Henrietta disappears with a briefcase full of money from their neighbor’s house. Henrietta’s motivations and next decades are intercut with the unexpected story of the disappearance of Elspeth, the mother in the Ross family legend, who tries to save her husband’s job by seducing a foreman. Readers will be moved by the conclusion to this exploration of the pressures of women across time, making for a touching novel. (May)