Discovering the Body: A Novel

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9780060937171: Discovering the Body: A Novel

Discovering the Body is a gripping novel filled with psychological suspense, sensitivity, and emotional complexity. With this stunning debut, Mary Howard has crafted an electrifying and hauntingly evocative novel of truth and perception, of the ties we tell others-and the lies we tell ourselves.

Two years ago Linda Garbo left her graphic design job in Minneapolis to open a printmaking studio in a small town in Iowa with the encouragement of Luci Cole, a weaver and an old friend from art school. Arriving in Linden Grove for good, Linda agrees to stay with Luci and her boyfriend, Charlie, in their old farmhouse outside of town until the renovations to her new studio space are completed. But the following afternoon as she is driving down the long winding road toward Luci's house, Linda sees Luci's neighbor, Peter Garvey, walking out the front door-and when Linda enters the house a few minutes later, she discovers her friend's lifeless body on the kitchen floor.

Now, two years later, Peter Garvey has been convicted of Luci's murder. Linda is married to Charlie and living in the very house where Luci died. And she is convinced someone is following her. As she begins to confront her fears-approaching the man she believes is spying on her, visiting Peter Garvey in prison-she finally faces the cause for her frequent panic attacks: she was too traumatized by her discovery of Luci's body to be a reliable witness. And if she's identified the wrong man, the killer may still be close by, ready to react if she admits she might have made a mistake. Compelled to unravel the mystery surrounding Luci's final days, Linda finds that Luci was a master at weaving her true colors into a complex tapestry, preferring involvements that required secrecy.

A beautifully crafted tour de force of significant depth, passion, and power, Discovering the Body is a completely beguiling meditation on perception, loss, memory, and redemption whose conclusion proves to be as significantly haunting as it is satisfying.

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Review:

Memory is powerful. Memory is treacherous. These are the twin horns of Linda Garbo's dilemma. Two years after finding Luci Cole's body, two years after her testimony helped convict Peter Garvey, Luci's lover, of murder, Linda is haunted by the fear that her remembrance of that fatal day was flawed. Linda had arrived in Linden Grove, a tiny Iowa town, to start her own graphic design business and to be close to Luci, an old friend from art school. But Luci's death sent Linda's life spinning into eerie tangents: she married Charlie, Luci's boyfriend, lived in the house Charlie built for Luci, kept Luci's workroom as a shrine to her. She is, she thinks, happy. But at what price has she bought that happiness?

As half-formed memories wash over her, Linda becomes determined to illuminate the context of Luci's death. Her decision, she knows, will disturb Charlie: "I wonder if I have set in motion a series of deceptions that will end with my losing him to Luci." Finding Luci's diary raises more questions than it answers, plunging Linda into a web of partial truths and outright deceptions that bind the small town together.

Howard's first novel is an elegant mystery in name and deed, unwinding, like Luci's loom, methodically back to origins and causes. It is also an equally elegant exploration of the ease with which such beginnings elude us. The novel calls into question the nature of individual and communal memory, of history as created art, of art as the transmission of desire. For Linda, the carefully etched image of the house she shares with Charlie (a birthday present, a gesture of apology for the turbulence her guilt has unleashed) is a metaphor for the dizzying coincidence of time, memory, and clarity: "If I can't bring life into the composition, I'm going to have to start over. Lower your brush, I tell myself, given a push by memory. Step up to the door full of sky, throw yourself onto the air. Suddenly I feel, rather than see, that the lines of the composition have gathered around this empty space all along, like rays of light. Lower your brush."

Howard has lowered her own brush--and raised the bar in the arena of smoothly crafted suspense prose. --Kelly Flynn

About the Author:

Mary Howard's short fiction has been published in the Ontario Review and The Georgia Review. Discovering the Body is her first novel.Howard was born and raised in Ames, Iowa, where she currently resides with her husband, Robert Bataille; they are the parents of two sons.

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