The Thin Place

( 4 )

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
In the opening pages of this brilliant, peculiar book, three small-town girls discover a man’s corpse at the edge of a lake, and one of them, Mees Kipp, mysteriously brings him back to life. Davis writes hallucinatory, literate prose, and adopts a cosmic perspective: she is concerned with nothing less than describing the town’s every waking moment. The experiences of Mees’s dog, trotting through a clearing that smells of porcupine, stand alongside those of a minister’s wife reading her morning paper and “confronting whatever form the devil had chosen to assume overnight.” In any other book, a magical resurrection would be a central event; for Davis, it’s just another moment in a particular place.
Julia Livshin
No amount of character sketching or plot summary, however, can begin to convey the experience of reading this strange and delightful novel. Davis gives voice to anything that's alive—Mees's dog, a beaver enjoying a swim, lichen—and juggles human and nonhuman perspectives as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Her narrative includes police logs, horoscopes, garden almanacs and disembodied meditations on creation. Somehow in Davis's hands none of it seems outlandish or self-consciously eccentric.
—The Washington Post
Lucy Ellmann
The Thin Place, Davis's sixth novel, is that rare, brave and original thing: an honest and energetic glimpse into an author's head. It's like being holed up with some crazy old nun. She's never dull but won't stop talking, filling every sentence to the brim with observations and reflections.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Davis's unconventional style of writing this novel is not well-suited to the audio format. Chapters are told from many different characters' perspectives, and the narrative jumps around from past to present. Since Frasier does not vary her delivery or do much to differentiate the voices of the characters, it's easy to lose the thread of what's going on. The novel frequently tosses in "list-style" items, such as police logs and daily horoscopes, which are slow, distracting and repetitive when read aloud. Frasier's cool, objective voice matches the author's narrative tone, but it makes such potentially exciting scenes as a gunman taking hostages in a church flat and dull. The strength of the audio medium is in its intimacy and emotion, the ability of a talented reader to bring characters and stories to life. A novel such as this, told in the detached tone of an impartial observer, does not play to the medium's strengths. It works better on the page. Simultaneous release with the Little, Brown hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 17). (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Taking place in the small town of Varennes near the Canadian border, this novel features a Jane Austen-like country setting and a Virginia Woolf-like sensibility. It begins with fifth-grade friends Mees, Lorna, and Sunny finding a seemingly dead man on the beach and ends with an attempted murder in a church. In between, Davis (Versailles) chronicles an affair between an older man and a younger woman, beaver trapping on the local lake, a 93-year-old-woman's birthday party, and a grade school class play, among other things. While these events form more of a chronology than a plot, plot really isn't the point here. Instead, Davis takes the events and characters of a recent small-town spring and uses them for an extended meditation on time and mortality and the mysterious web of connections among all things. While the end result could have been a bit too airily "spiritual," Davis's focus on commonplace activities within the community keeps the novel firmly grounded. Recommended for all literary fiction collections.-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Metamorphosis, resurrection and the mysterious ways in which all living things are connected are the themes of Davis's homespun magical-realist sixth novel (Versailles, 2002, etc.). Its setting is Varennes, a quaint little town on the Canadian border whose inhabitants all know one another as well as they know both their own domestic animals and the latters' wild counterparts. With lordly omniscience, Davis takes us inside all these creatures' thoughts, following an arresting opening sequence in which a dead man is revived. Preadolescent Mees Kipp's life-giving "power" (first discovered when she was three, and since honed by conversations with periodic visitor Jesus) is only one of the many mysteries of growing up-as her girlfriends Lorna and Sunny only dimly comprehend. That the world is an infinitely varied, bountiful and threatening place becomes progressively clear to everyone in Varennes, including bookbinder Andrea Murdock (through whose research we learn of the long-ago "Sunday School Outing Disaster" that claimed several of the town's best and brightest); sexually hyperactive sexagenarian Piet Zeebrugge and his mother Helen, who languishes impatiently in the Crockett Home for the Aged; love-starved Billie Carpenter, who devotes her untapped energies to humanitarian and environmental causes; Mees's perpetually misbehaving malamute Margaret; a beaver targeted for annihilation by a charismatic trapper; and many others. Davis leads her characters-human and animal alike-surely toward another potential "disaster" on Pentecostal Sunday, mingling numerous seriocomic incidents with summary statements that reveal a cosmic vision that can instantly charm you, then stomp all over you (e.g.,"Water has more properties that are beneficial to human beings than any other substance. Also it can drown you"). The quirky, immensely gifted Davis has been compared to Kafka, Dinesen and Hans Christian Andersen. One might also say she is to contemporary fiction what Emily Dickinson was to 19th-century poetry. A delightful, surprise-filled narrative: Davis's best yet.
From the Publisher
"The quirky, immensely gifted Davis has been compared to Kafka, Dinesen and Hans Christian Andersen. A delightful, surprise-filled narrative: Davis's best yet."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316014243
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 2/28/2007
  • Edition description: includes Reader's Group Guide
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 969,338
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

In addition to narrating audiobooks, Shelly Frasier has appeared in many independent film and theater projects in Arizona and southern California, and she has developed character voices for animation projects and done voice-over work for commercials.
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Read an Excerpt

The Thin Place


By Kathryn Davis

Little, Brown

Copyright © 2006 Kathryn Davis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-73504-3


Chapter One

There 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.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis Copyright © 2006 by Kathryn Davis. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 31, 2009

    The Thin Place

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2008

    Um, What???

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2006

    Oddly enlightening, life-altering out-of body experience

    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....

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A weird but exhilarating King meets Kafka like thriller

    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

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews

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