Monday, February 14, 2011
THE CYPRESS HOUSE
Returning from WWI, Arlen Wagner is travelling by train with Paul Brickhill to the Florida Keys in search of work. But Arlen has a strange gift; when someone is close to death he sees smoke in their eyes and sometimes even their fleshless skeletons. Arlen sees just that in his fellow passenger on a train to Florida and, despite the jeers of his fellow passengers, Arlen and Paul get off at the next station. The train continues on to to the Keys and is destroyed by a violent hurricane.
But the worst is still ahead for Arlen and Paul as they find themselves stranded at Cypress House, a rundown tavern in a small corrupt town in Florida. Arlen and Paul are beseiged by the local judge and police and soon find themselves penniless when Arlen's savings are stolen. Rebecca Cady, the owner of Cypress House, allows them to begin working to rebuild the hurricane damaged tavern to earn enough to get back on the road to look for work. But mystery, intrigue and corruption surround both Rebecca and Cypress House and both men become embroiled in the impending disaster of this corrupt small town, even as they are both falling in love with Rebecca.
This bleak novel with its backdrop of the Great Depression, Arlen's supernatural ability to foresee death and characters that have no respite from their merciless lives combine to make THE CYPRESS HOUSE an unrelentingly grim and difficult book to read.