Monday, February 5, 2018

"The Glass Forest"

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 literary thriller titled The Glass Forest, releases this week. Swanson lives in Denver, CO with her family.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Glass Forest and reported the following:
The Glass Forest, my second novel (follow-up to The Bookseller) is told through the viewpoint of three women. In 1960, twenty-one-year-old Angie is newly married to the older, charming Paul Glass. Seventeen-year-old Ruby, Paul’s niece, telephones Angie and Paul one day to report that her father (Paul’s brother Henry) is dead of an apparent suicide and her mother, Silja, has disappeared. The mysteriously missing Silja provides the backstory.

On page 69 of The Glass Forest, it’s 1944 and Henry has just returned from World War II. He had shipped out in 1942, after his and Silja’s whirlwind courtship and wedding. After being gravely injured, he returns to live with Silja, her mother, and their toddler, Ruby. Silja expects the romance of their earlier time together to pick up right where it left off—but Henry explains why that’s not to be.
That night in bed, Silja tried to get him to talk. “Tell me what happened,” she whispered. She sat with her nightgown wrapped around her knees as he lay on his back staring at the ceiling. “Tell me exactly where you were and what you were doing when you got hurt.”

In the half-light from the window, he turned toward her.

“Silja.” His voice was even and firm. “I’m going to say this once. I won’t say it again.” He sat up, facing her. “I don’t want to talk about what happened over there.” He looked out the window. “Don’t ever ask me again.”

Silja put her hand on his hip. “All right,” she said. “We don’t have to talk.” She reached forward, her hand crawling toward the buttons on his pajama bottoms’ fly—the new satin pajamas she’d splurged on for his homecoming night. “There are other things we can do.”

He pushed her hand away and shook his head angrily. “We can’t,” he said. “We never will again.”

“Never ... will again?” Silja shook her head. “What do you mean?”

Henry grimaced. “You know where ... on my body ... my injuries occurred.” His mouth was a thin, irritated line. “I was told that you’d be informed about what to expect. And you were informed, weren’t you?”

Silja frowned. She’d had a rather awkward telephone conversation with a stateside army nurse who’d explained what Silja might anticipate. “He should be fine by the time he gets home,” the nurse had assured her. “Or if not right away, then certainly with time, recuperating at home . . . everything will be okay.”

“I understand.” Silja had held the receiver close to her ear and watched Ruby, who was calmly stacking alphabet blocks on the living room rug.

“You just be patient with him, dear,” the nurse’s motherly voice went on. Silja could almost imagine the woman patting her hand through the telephone line. “Give him your devotion and love. That’s all it takes for these fellas to get back to their old selves.”

Now, sitting in bed next to Henry, Silja said, “They told me it would be okay.”

But that wasn’t what they told her, was it? She’d discounted the nurse’s warning about time and recuperation. She’d been certain everything would be wonderful the moment he was back in her arms.

“I’m sorry I rushed you, Henry,” she told him. “I shouldn’t have done that.” She looked at him hopefully. “But maybe ... another night ... soon?”

Henry lay back against the pillow. “Silja, I’m beat,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Good night.”

He turned away from her.
It’s a pivotal scene because until then, Silja had been optimistic and excited about the life Henry promised her. “Marry me now,” he’d said in 1942. “Marry me, Silja, and after this war is over, I’ll come back and we’ll make a life together. A life beyond your wildest dreams.”

But on the night of his return, Silja begins to realize the truth about what her future with Henry might truly hold.
Visit Cynthia Swanson's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Bookseller.

--Marshal Zeringue