cover image Down from Cascom Mountain

Down from Cascom Mountain

Ann Joslin Williams. Bloomsbury, $25 (336p) ISBN 978-1-60819-306-6

Williams sets her slow, wistful debut novel (after the collection The Woman in the Woods) in and around the fictional town of Leah, N.H., created by her father, National Book Award%E2%80%93winner Thomas Williams. The novel opens as Mary Walker returns to her deceased parents' summer home with her new husband, Michael. The isolated house, barely accessible by road, is nestled in the valley below the densely forested Cascom Mountain, and, within a few pages, Michael falls to his death up on the mountain, leaving Mary to be consoled by characters facing trials of their own. Among them is Tobin, a local teenager with a mentally ill mother; despite his pronounced social ineptness, Tobin graduated from Exeter at 15, but is afraid to go away to college. Callie, a 16-year-old summer employee at a mountain lodge who assists in retrieving Michael's body, tries to help Mary even as she explores her own fears and sexuality. And then there's Ben, a fire watchman mourning a lost love. Williams's highly polished prose entwines grief with desire and mines the natural world for real emotion, but the novel never really finds a story after the initial setup. It moves around, but never forward, a flaw underscored by the flurry of unearned epiphanies that substitute for a proper conclusion. (June)