Morrow's Diviner's Tale is a tight, literary ghost story

By Cory Doctorow

I finished Bradford Morrow's The Diviner's Tale over the weekend, galloping through the last third of the book with gooseflesh on my arms, completely spellbound by this cut-above-the-rest literary ghost story.

Diviner's Tale's protagonist is Cassandra Brooks, a misfit schoolteacher in rural Delaware. Cassandra is also the daughter of Nep Brooks, and like her father, and her grandfather, and her male relatives back as far as they can trace, she is a diviner, and can find water by walking land with a forked stick in her hand. Half the time, she's not sure if she's kidding herself or not, but she finds water, and everyone around town -- including her twin sons, whom she is raising on her own -- knows it's true.

But Cassandra doesn't just divine water. Sometimes, she divines the future, something she discovered as a little girl, when she unsuccessfully begged her heroic older brother to skip a road-trip, a trip that proved to be fatal. These "forevisions" have driven her half mad at times, but she thinks she has things under control.

Until the day she finds a hanged girl in the woods where she is dowsing for water for a new housing development. Terrified, she calls the police, who can't find her girl -- but who do later find a mysterious runaway girl nearby. This kicks off a series of ever-more terrifying visions that are made all the worse by her deteriorating relationship with her family and the mysterious, threatening notes she's started to receive.

Spooky as hell, beautifully written, tight as a tripwire, The Diviner's Tale isn't quite like any ghost story I've read before. Morrow's prose is lush and eccentric and beautiful, somewhere between Bradbury and Kerouac at times, and his characters are superbly realized and gloriously imperfect.

The Diviner's Tale (Amazon US)

The Diviner's Tale (Amazon UK)

Published 3:58 am Mon, Jan 31, 2011

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About the Author

I write books. My latest are: a YA graphic novel called In Real Life (with Jen Wang); a nonfiction book about the arts and the Internet called Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age (with introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer) and a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

6 Responses to “Morrow's Diviner's Tale is a tight, literary ghost story”

  1. Anonymous says:

    SamSam, I cannot second that enough. Give us working tags!

    I was trying to show my friend the Among Others review but couldn’t remember the name or author, after some fruitless searching I eventually opted for scrolling through the reviews section. It really only took a few seconds, but it would have been a pain if I were looking for, say, a review from a year or two ago.

    Tags!

    jolownit thinking

  2. Kwolfbrooks says:

    This is great. I want more book reviews from you, Cory! ;-)

  3. SamSam says:

    Most reviews can be found in the section http://www.boingboing.net/reviews/

    However, I really don’t understand why BB doesn’t let us click on the tag names. That way we could click on the “book” tag and get all the articles on books.

    In a magical alternate universe, Boing Boing would also let us search for “book” in “reviews” by author “Cory.” But we don’t live in that universe.

  4. torgeaux says:

    I read this review, clicked the link for Amazon US and was going to buy this. Until I saw the Kindle price. Another fatality in the publisher’s war on their customers.

  5. ChesterS says:

    I just finished. A very good book. I didn’t think the pacing of the “bad guy” reveal was handled as well as it could have been, though, considering what had happened in the past to the narrator.

    I thought it took place in upstate NY.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’m just curious as to how Mr. Doctorow came across this book, and what was the selling point to him. From what I gathered, the supernatural experience seems a little out of bound from BoingBoing, although it is nice to come across a well-written and thoughtful book, no matter the genre.

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