A haunting novel from the author of The Weight of Blood about a young woman’s return to her childhood home—and her encounter with the memories and family secrets it holds
ITW THRILLER AWARD FINALIST
Arrowood is the most ornate and grand of the historical houses that line the Mississippi River in southern Iowa. But the house has a mystery it has never revealed: It’s where Arden Arrowood’s younger twin sisters vanished on her watch twenty years ago—never to be seen again. After the twins’ disappearance, Arden’s parents divorced and the Arrowoods left the big house that had been in their family for generations. And Arden’s own life has fallen apart: She can’t finish her master’s thesis, and a misguided love affair has ended badly. She has held on to the hope that her sisters are still alive, and it seems she can’t move forward until she finds them. When her father dies and she inherits Arrowood, Arden returns to her childhood home determined to discover what really happened to her sisters that traumatic summer.
Arden’s return to the town of Keokuk—and the now infamous house that bears her name—is greeted with curiosity. But she is welcomed back by her old neighbor and first love, Ben Ferris, whose family, she slowly learns, knows more about the Arrowoods’ secrets and their small, closed community than she ever realized. With the help of a young amateur investigator, Arden tracks down the man who was the prime suspect in the kidnapping. But the house and the surrounding town hold their secrets close—and the truth, when Arden finds it, is more devastating than she ever could have imagined.
Arrowood is a powerful and resonant novel that examines the ways in which our lives are shaped by memory. As with her award-winning debut novel, The Weight of Blood, Laura McHugh has written a thrilling novel in which nothing is as it seems, and in which our longing for the past can take hold of the present in insidious and haunting ways.
Praise for Arrowood
“This robust, old-fashioned gothic mystery has everything you’re looking for: a creepy old house, a tenant with a secret history, and even a few ghosts. Laura McHugh’s novel sits at the intersection of memory and history, astutely asking whether we carry the past or it carries us.”—Jodi Picoult
“An eloquently eerie tale.”—Booklist
“Poignant . . . lyrical.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A chilling, twisting tale of family, memory, and home . . . This engaging and thrilling tale about a young woman’s homecoming, the vagaries of memory, and the impact of tragedy on both a town and a family is a terrific choice for Laura Lippman and Sue Grafton readers.”—Library Journal (starred review)
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.65(d)|
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Excerpted from "Arrowood"
Copyright © 2017 Laura McHugh.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
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Reading Group Guide
1. How has Arden’s past shaped her into the person she is at the beginning of the novel?
2. The novel is set in Keokuk, Iowa, a town on the Mississippi River. At one time it was a prosperous town, but now many of its beautiful homes are neglected and deteriorating. How does the setting contribute to the overall story?
3. Arden’s mother warned her that it was a mistake to go back to Arrowood, saying it was best left in the past, and that if Arden was smart she’d “pray for an electrical fire and a swift insurance payout.” But Arden insists that she “had loved this house beyond reason, had felt its absence like the ache of a poorly set bone.” Discuss the role that the house plays in the novel.
4. To cope with the tragedy of the past, Arden’s mother rewrites history, pushing down her emotional pain and refusing to acknowledge the family’s loss. Toward the end of the novel, Arden says, “I couldn’t cauterize my wounds as my mother had done.” Can you relate to this coping mechanism? Compare and contrast Arden’s way of dealing with painful memories to her mother’s.
5. There’s a saying that you can’t go home again. What do you think it means? How does it apply to Arden’s situation? What do you think of her decision to stay in Keokuk and let go of Arrowood?
6. When asked why solving the mystery of the twins’ death was important to him, Josh says, “It’s like a riddle. . . . I hate not knowing the answer.” In what ways has Josh’s past shaped who he is as an adult? Do you think Josh’s and Arden’s analagous childhood experiences affected them in similar or different ways? How does Josh’s work with his website, Midwest Mysteries, compare to Arden’s thesis project?
7. In your opinion, who was responsible for the death of the twins?
8. Describe the relationship between Arden and Ben. Did the way it evolves in the novel surprise you? What did you expect to happen between them? Did your feelings about Ben’s mother, Mrs. Ferris, change over the course of the novel?
9. In what fundamental ways has Arden changed by the end of the novel? Do you think she will finally be able to move forward?
10. What did you think of the book’s surprise ending—-or was it a surprise? Discuss the role of memory in the novel. How are memory, truth, and nostalgia (“the bittersweet longing for a time and place left behind”) intertwined, and what impact do they have on the presentday lives of the characters? If Arden were to rework her thesis for graduate school, what would she write?