In a thin place, according to legend, the membrane separating this world from the spirit world is almost nonexistent. The small New England town of Varennes is such a place, and Kathryn Davis transports us there - revealing a surprising pageant of life as, in the course of one summer, Varennes' tranquillity is shattered by the arrival of a threatening outsider, worldly and otherworldly forces come into play, and a young local girl finds her miraculous gift for resurrecting the dead tested by the conflict between logic and wish.
|Publisher:||Little, Brown and Company|
|Edition description:||includes Reader's Group Guide|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Shelly Frasier has recorded over fifty audiobooks. She can be heard narrating such classics as Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Read an Excerpt
The Thin Place
By Kathryn Davis
Little, BrownCopyright © 2006 Kathryn Davis
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThere were three girlfriends and they were walking down a trail that led to a lake. One small and plump, one pretty and medium-sized, one not so pretty and tall. This was in the early years of the twenty-first century, the unspeakable having happened so many times everyone was still in shock, still reeling from what they'd seen, what they'd done or failed to do. The dead souls no longer wore gowns. They'd gotten loose, broadcasting their immense soundless chord through the precincts of the living.
At the lake the trail branched right and left. Right to the town beach, a grassy plot with six picnic tables, two stone grills, a pit toilet, a trash can, and a narrow strip of lumpy gray sand. Left to the Knoll, where the overlarge houses of the rich nestled among shade trees and tasteful redwood play structures-and then back to town. Straight ahead was the boat ramp and the Crocketts' chocolate Lab, Buddy, going down shoulder-first on a dead fish. Beyond the ramp was the water.
The sky was the palest blue and fluttered over the girls' heads like a circus tent at the apex of which the sun was pinned. It was a Saturday in mid-May, the sun only just starting to heat up, it being the northern latitudes, but even so Mrs. Kipp had made sure they all wore sunblock. You couldn't be too careful. Like many objects of worship, the sun had grown impatient with its worshipers, causing some of them to sicken and die. As she larded on the sunblock, Mrs. Kipp informed them that these days only stupid people had tans.
When they got to the beach, the three girls came to a halt. A very large man, dressed in a pair of khaki shorts and not much else, was lying on his stomach in the sand with his head facing the lake. From where the girls stood, they could see the bottoms of the man's feet, which looked smooth and white. Almost as if he were a baby, observed Lorna Fine, not only the tallest and least attractive but also the most fanciful of the three. The older Lorna got, the prettier she would become, but for now she was like a bespectacled monkey wearing red-and-yellow plaid seersucker pants and the vintage Ramones T-shirt she'd found in the back of her brother's closet under a stack of dirty magazines, so she was sure he wouldn't ask for it back.
Sunny Crockett let out a loud sigh Lorna knew was meant to be overheard by anyone inconsiderate enough to be hogging the entire strip of sand when obviously there were other people who wanted to use it.
"It's Mr. Banner," said Mees Kipp.
"Who?" Lorna asked.
"Mr. Banner," said Mees, "from Sunny's church." She walked around to the man's right where she planted herself, a small round thing in a pink tracksuit, in the sand next to his face. Mr. Banner's eyes were loosely shut, and his black eyeglasses were shoved up so the left lens was wedged over the bridge of his nose, which was bruised and bleeding. His mouth was partly open, and a little foamy drool was coming out of it; there were several blackfly bites, the first of the season, on his bald head, and four long fine hairs were growing out of the middle of his nose halfway between the bridge and the nostrils.
Noon. The sun shone down; Mees leaned closer. Mr. Banner smelled like perspiration but also sweet like cotton candy, and there was something about him, about the way he lay there so perfectly still yet with a sense of something enormously alive inside him, something almost insanely teeming with slumberous hidden vitality deep inside, that made her feel like she was looking at a cave full of sleeping bats.
"Don't," said Lorna, when Mees reached out a finger. "Don't touch him."
"Germs?" guessed Sunny, but Lorna, a great fan of Agatha Christie, shook her head.
"I don't think he's breathing," she said. "Look at his chest." Tentatively she held her hand near the man's nose. "I think he's dead." The sand was coarse and gritty, the entire beach hard as a rock. If there were any footprints, Lorna couldn't make them out, though despite the trash can, there was a lot of trash on the ground, including cigarette butts and a beer bottle. Molson. Canadian.
"We should do something," said Sunny. "We should get help."
"You get help," said Mees. "I'm staying here."
"It's not like he's going anywhere," Lorna pointed out, but once Mees had made her mind up, forget it. "Just try not to touch anything," Lorna added sternly. "Okay?"
Of course Lorna knew perfectly well that the minute she and Sunny were out of sight Mees would do just that-it had been so obvious, her hand visibly itching to touch the man's cheek.
"Sure," Mees said. She nodded her small round face, a face that, no doubt due to its exceptionally round dark eyes and full bow lips, its fringe of dark hair and pronounced widow's peak, tended to remind people of a pansy. Such a sweet little flower, with such a fierce expression!
Mr. Banner, Mees was thinking. Mr. Banner Mr. Banner Mr. Banner Mr. Banner.
Think of me. That was what Pansy said in The Language of Flowers.
Excerpted from The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis Copyright © 2006 by Kathryn Davis. Excerpted by permission.
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What People are Saying About This
"The quirky, immensely gifted Davis has been compared to Kafka, Dinesen and Hans Christian Andersen. A delightful, surprise-filled narrative: Davis's best yet."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Every once in awhile, I try to pick out random books that I would not normally read. Sometimes they turn out to be quite a pleasant surprise, other times... not so much.I would definitely have to say that "The Thin Place" would fall into the latter category.It was a jumbled, disorderly rant of scattered mess. I often felt that I was trying in vain to put together a puzzle while reading this one. Davis seemed to take nothing seriously - a cat coming home to some cream seemed to be just as important and focused upon as someone being raised from the dead. I thought that there were too many characters - and none of them did I ever come to understand. I thought that the little girl who could raise people (and animals) from the dead sounded interesting, but right from the first scene, she proves just as lifeless as all the others. Sometimes I could *almost* get a sense of what I think the author was trying to achieve - a hazy, quirky whimsical aura. Let me stress - almost. This book is unique, that's for sure. I would not go so far as to say that is badly written, but I can say for sure that it was not my type of reading, and one that I was glad to finish and put straight into my discard pile.
Multiple perspectives can do wonderful things for a narrative. When it's done well, it can help flesh out the story and give the reader more insights than can be garnered from a single character. When it's done poorly, or haphazardly, multiple perspectives only serve to impede the flow of the story, and can confuse the reader. Such is the case here, where Davis gives us the perspective of many characters, including several of the pets in the small town in which her story is set. Here, the multiple perspectives have the effect of muddying the waters so that the reader can never gets a clear picture of any of the characters and can never know what's important to the story.It's too bad that Davis never lets any one character's story come through fully, because she gives us several interesting threads. One character can bring people and animals back to life, but only under certain circumstances. What circumstances? How does she feel about her ability? Occasionally we feel as though we may be getting close to delving deeper into one perspective, but than Davis tears the story away to another character, or perhaps gives us a horoscope or something from the local police blotter. The effect is a very jerky, frustrating read.
I started out not enjoying this book, then decided it was quite interesting, but the last chapter ruined it all for me. The story of a young girl who has the gift of bringing people back from the dead is interspersed with the stories of others who are intimately linked to her life by virtue of living in a small town. Davis uses the ephemera of daily living... the police log, a long dead teacher's journal, nature almanac and horoscopes... to detail the events of one summer in a small New England town. She also pulls in all sorts of religious iconography to add to the mysticism. The climax is abrupt, especially after so slow a build up, but that didn't bother me as such an event would be abrupt in reality. What bothers me is the climax leads to a too quick ending that neatly ties up lives that would have been better left to the reader's imagination.
Many times during the reading of this book - I considered putting it down and getting rid of it. It's not exactly an easy read - and I can't say that I was very engrosed in it - nor was I especially concerned about finding out how it ended. I had a hard time keeping track of who was who...but when I was in a character's mind - I did enjoy being there. I liked seeing, smelling, feeling the world through someone else's senses. Though the flow of action was hard for me to get a grip on - the flow of the world, the feel of the season (summer) was very vivid. This is the 2nd book of Davis's that I've read - and as with the first one (The Walking Tour) - I spend most of the time feeling lost and as if I am walking around with blinders on - but what I can see is like a painting; true to life but larger than life. Dripping with color and texture and emotion, Davis's books are easy for me to appreciate but far more difficult to lose myself in.
A lot of pretty, thoughtful writing. But none of the human characters made much of an impact on me. The animal and vegetable ones, however... In general, I liked her bird's eye view of the town, but sometimes the conceit got a little labored.
At times nearly perfect, at times rather frustrating. The novel encompasses more than just its characters, it's also their pets, the lake, the place itself. And Davis's writing is often just perfect. But sometimes the rambling meditations get a little old. And there are an awful lot of characters to keep track of for such a small book.
I'm an avid reader, so I never give up on a book. I finished it, but painfully. The people in Varennes are boring. There was no plot, no resolve (even to the few incidents which occurred). Kathryn Davis' musings might be interesting to some, but not to me. This could have been any town, yours or mine.
I just finished this book, and maybe I read a different one than the other two reviewers. I. did. not. get. it. period. I read the novel in its entirety, waiting and waiting for something big to happen. Still waiting. When major events did happen, they were almost glossed over, while other things that were practically nonsensical were described in intricate detail. I just didn't get it, I guess.
I just recently finished reading The Thin Place, and I think I will be pondering its storyline for quite some time. It is a short, sweet novel that is written like none I have ever read and yet is still able to capture attention. Davis' unique explanation of the captivatingly simple yet intricately complex nature of the town of Varennes is one that should be held close to the heart and applauded dearly. I reccomend you give it a earnest chance because the ending will be worth the wait....
In Varennes, the three schoolgirls see their neighbor, Mr. Banner lying perfectly still on the beach, even in their youthfulness they can see he is obviously dead. However, instead of getting help, one of children Mees Kipp brings him back to life, a power she has used since she was three and mentored since by Jesus. Her two pals Lorna and Sunny are a bit awed by the revival of Banner from the dead, but do not fully grasp the miracle.----- Meanwhile bookbinder Andrea Murdock has done research into the 1870 disaster that still haunts Varennes like it occurred yesterday. Apparently a schoolmarm and several students died in what is now commonly known as the Sunday School Outing Disaster. At the same time nonagenarian Helen Zeebrugge wonders when her sexagenarian son Piet will grow up as he always seems to think with the wrong head. Now newcomer Billie Carpenter targets him, but first must he must deal with an evil related to that 1870 disaster that threatens the existence of the townsfolk today with a repeat of the previous calamity. Not knowing whether to trust Mees, who just might be mentored by the malevolence, Billie¿s only weapon in her repertoire is love though she has never been the recipient of such.----- THE THIN PLACE is a weird but exhilarating King meets Kafka like thriller that haunts readers even after the novel is finished. The story line is character driven, but the changing atmosphere of the town is what the audience senses although they are not fully sure what is coming down. If you have not tried Kathryn Davis you are missing one of the best author¿s at keeping readers¿ attention from start to finish as no one knows where the author will escort you to, only that it will be strange, scary, and suspenseful.----- Harriet Klausner