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.