The Golden Hour
By: T. Greenwood
Publication Date: 2/28/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars + Top Books of 2017 “Richly told and hauntingly beautiful, The Golden Hour was impossible to put down.” Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times & USA Today bestselling author On a spring afternoon long ago, thirteen-year-old Wyn Davies took a shortcut through the woods in her New Hampshire hometown and became a cautionary tale. Now, twenty years later, she lives in New York, on the opposite side of a duplex from her ex, with their four-year-old daughter shuttling between them. Wyn makes her living painting commissioned canvases of birch trees to match her clients’ furnishings. But the nagging sense that she has sold her artistic soul is soon eclipsed by a greater fear. Robby Rousseau, who has spent the past two decades in prison for a terrible crime against her, may be released based on new DNA evidence—unless Wyn breaks her silence about that afternoon. To clear her head, refocus her painting, and escape an even more present threat, Wyn agrees to be temporary caretaker for a friend’s new property on a remote Maine island. The house has been empty for years, and in the basement Wyn discovers a box of film canisters labeled “Epitaphs and Prophecies.” Like time capsules, the photographs help her piece together the life of the house’s former owner, an artistic young mother, much like Wyn. But there is a mystery behind the images too, and unraveling it will force Wyn to finally confront what happened in those woods—and perhaps escape them at last. A compelling and evocative novel with an unsettling question at its heart, T. Greenwood’s The Golden Hour explores the power of art to connect, to heal, and to reveal our most painful and necessary truths.
Master storyteller T. Greenwood returns following (2016) Where I Lost Her — my Top 50 Books of 2016 with her latest masterpiece, THE GOLDEN HOUR, another gripping spellbinding suspense page-turner and complex tale of family secrets.
With finesse, a skillful blending of symbolism, metaphors, and artistry; equally, character and plot-driven, a mix of literary, historical and women’s fiction; mystery, suspense, and psychological thriller, rolled into one.
THE GOLDEN HOUR is a compelling saga with dual storylines. Greenwood ensnares you from the first page to the finale. She weaves deftly between past and present with highly charged topics. A story of friendship, lies, and dark secrets. As usual, with Greenwood’s own signature lyrical style, she uses vivid mysterious settings, strong elements of nature, and the power of art.
Wyn is a wife and mother and yet she struggles with a tragic event when she was thirteen years old. The day in the woods in New Hampshire. Her life changed. No one knows the truth about what happened. She has kept silent. Someone’s secret and her own.
Now she paints birches. (“woods” and forest, also another reference throughout the book). Living in Queens in a duplex, Wyn, is a mother to four-year-old daughter, Avery. Next door on the other side of the duplex— is her husband (ex), Gus.
She is an artist. However, she is not painting what she loves. She has turned to painting "quirky birches"(trees) to match her clients home décor. Boring, yet she was grateful for the work and the commission jobs in order to take care of the bills.
Gus is a good father, (they still love one another), and in order to share custody and keep the bills down, they are living next door to one another. He is a free-spirt and owns a sign shop. An artist as well.
Wyn knows this living arrangement cannot last forever, being this close to one another. He had inherited it from his grandmother and when the tenant moved out on the other side, Wyn moved on the other side of the wall.
She realizes something must change. Even though they were not legally divorced, or even separated for that matter. He wanted Wyn to focus on real painting and not the stupid birches. She was thirty-three years old and would not go back to working at a bar. This would have to do for now. They had split up over the stupid tree paintings. (among other things). This was the last straw.
She is feeling particularly uneasy. She has just received the news: Robert J. Rousseau. He was charged with rape years ago. A local activist solicits help from New Hampshire Innocence Project (a former social worker), who insists he was falsely accused —in the 1996 crime.
Now twenty years later, she must re-live the nightmare. They want to test for DNA. Back then, he confessed. He was never supposed to get out. He was supposed to rot in prison. That is what the New Hampshire family lawyer had promised. Her entire world was shattered. Back then and now once again.
Had she sold her soul back then, to the devil? She was a young scared girl. Now, a scared woman.
Her mom, dad, brother, friends and Gus are worried about her. The media is hovering. She wants to escape. She cannot allow this to happen. Then she begins receiving sick phone calls and emails, threatening her and her family. The caller is a man and says he knows she has a little girl. She had to get away. Gus does not know the real truth.
In the meantime, while she is in denial, her friend Pilar, had left her a message about joining her in Maine. She decides this may be a way to hide out. She and Pilar have been friends for years and in college, as well as Gus. They all attended art school together at Rhode Island School of Design fifteen years earlier.
While Wyn had resigned herself to painting those happy birches and Gus used his skills to make metal signs, Pilar’s career had moved at a steady pace and then the following year a collector fell in love with her work, and suddenly she was an artist with a capital A. The NYT had featured a showing at a gallery and all changed for her. Has Pilar changed?
Pilar has recently purchased a crumbling clapboard cottage which sits atop a rocky cliff on Bluffs Island, a remote islet far off the coast of Maine. She had bought it on a whim one summer after she sold some paintings for a high five figures.
Wyn was no longer a free-spirit as they had been back in college. She was afraid. She had been running away for twenty years. She was doing it once again. It had been twenty years since she cast the first lie. But what was the truth?
“This the thing about a lie: over time, it not only obscures the truth but consumes it . . . A lie, in collusion with time, can overpower the truth. A good lie has the power to subsume reality. A good lie can become the truth . . . However, lies are also precarious things. Each twist and, each flutter of a wing, each protest threatening to tear the intricate construction apart.”
She finally persuades Gus into allowing her to take Avery to Maine after three weeks. She, of course, does not tell him nor anyone the reason for leaving, nor about the phone calls. However, once she arrives, she discovers the home is in great need of work, very remote, and Pilar does not visit often, due to the weather, traveling, and her work.
However, instead of painting as she had planned, she has time on her hands and procrastinates. Time for worry and stress about the event years ago which changed her life. What will happen when the truth comes out?
Instead of thinking about the petition for retrial and the thought of testifying—and the possibility of this monster going free and what she may have to face— she escapes into another world, when she discovers film in a box, in the old crumbled house’s basement. She becomes protective of this person's work. It is intimate. Delicate. Sensitive.
Roll after roll of 35mm film. Undeveloped. Who takes 50 rolls of film and doesn’t get them developed? She cannot figure out this mystery. She is intrigued. This is a distraction for her.
First, let me say, the house next door is very mysterious, and the guy who owns it. (what a brilliant addition to the story and tie-in). Up to this point, the mystery is what really happened twenty years earlier. Readers know something is not right and Wyn is hiding something. Some secret. Some lie. She is worried and afraid for her family.
Rather than dwelling on this, Wyn becomes obsessed with the film and the lives in the photos. She has a few rolls developed and is further intrigued. A mysterious woman. Did this woman live in this house? She was a photographer. It appears there was possibly a lover and a baby. This is like wow, another saga! This storyline takes front and center. What happened to the woman?
Gus comes to visit to take Avery for a few weeks over the holiday and Wyn gives him the film for their friend back home to develop in his dark room. When she receives the negatives, she is further pulled into the mystery and intrigue of what happened to Sybil, the woman. (so was I) …
She and Pilar are invited to the large mansion (Gatsby) home (loving this) for a New Year’s Eve party and begins to try and piece together the mystery of the woman in the photo. Who is this wealthy man? Their second home. The wife seems very odd. However, Pilar does not visit often and now she is alone at this house, while Avery is with Gus.
However, what she learns about the woman in the photo and her discovery may just give her the strength to return to her hometown in New Hampshire and face her fears. Change her perspective. Will she finally have the courage, to tell the truth, and not be afraid? To heal from the pain.
The secrets of Wyn, Rick, Robby, Sybil, and Seamus. The cost of silence. Waiting for the lies to come unraveled. Guilt. A dangerous path. Humanity’s darker side.
“The funny thing about the truth is, it always seems to have a way to getting free. For two decades, I could practically hear the beatings of wings against those invisible threads, gossamer snapping, coming undone.”
A lot to love here! From the dark thickness of trees, path through the woods, (heart-pounding) forest, running for safety, snow, fire, water, the old Cliffside Gatsby-like mansion, mermaid tears, the rocky cliff, the bluffs, the crashing waves, the danger lurking, evil, the cottage, a death, a rape, the emotion, a mysterious man next door, and two very dark secrets. The author executes it brilliantly. Would make a great movie or series!
Greenwood is a pro at blending all these elements and palettes of color . . . (you can tell she is a photographer) . . . building suspense and keeping you on the edge-of-your-seat. All the while you are so caught up in the second mystery at the Bluffs from long ago, you almost forget about the mystery behind what happened to Wyn when she was thirteen (this comes towards the ending).
All consuming, compelling, and atmospheric. With the dual timelines-Greenwood slowly reveals in detail the events leading up to the rape, the raw emotions and fear of a young girl, her struggles, her near death experience, and the secret and guilt she has had to live with.
In addition, we learn of the Bluffs Island secret. The Epitaphs and Prophecies box. What really happened to the woman who lived in the house. A murder, scandal, a suicide? The house had been sitting for thirty-five years. Each photo captures the essence. Present. Past. End. Beginning.
Ongoing themes of before and after. At the heart, a deeply human story; a timely tragic issue of consent, rape, bullying, the scars, both literal and emotional . . . the repercussions. From memorable characters—surrounded by a web of deceit, fractured families, destructive secrets, lies . . . bringing characters to life—keeping you captivated from the first page to the last. 5 Stars ++
Am strongly reminded of Robert Frost's early poem, "Birches".
Wyn is using the Maine house, her birches, her secret, and the mystery she discovers as an escape. However, like the poem, she does not wish to be left out on a limb. For the poet, he looks at bent trees and imagines another truth.
An avid Greenwood fan for years (one of my favorite authors), have read ALL her books and anxiously await the next. Each one is a rare treat. When I begin one of her books, I know it is a special gift and know to "mark out" uninterrupted time before beginning. I am like a "giddy kid" and "over the moon" when being granted an early reading copy. (thank you Kensington)
An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions (a great reading guide included). Highly recommend! For fans of Mary Kubica, Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, Karen White, Jodi Picoult, Heather Gudenkauf, Diane Chamberlain, and Amy Hatvany.
A VERY special thank you to Kensington and NetGalley for an early reading copy. (cover love!)
Acclaim for T. Greenwood's Novels
THE GOLDEN HOUR
“Greenwood’s tale is gorgeously written, balanced between childhood trauma and a present-day mystery. The novel follows as Wyn confronts her pasts and as the secrets she holds spill over into her adult life. An incredibly realistic and thought-provoking book, there is tangible imagery that seamlessly blends with contemplative language to invite the reader to linger over this fast-paced story.”– RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
“Greenwood has succeeded in writing an emotionally charged novel with many layers, rounded out by a cast of memorable characters.” - Publishers Weekly
“While many of the characters are well-developed and the plot moves along smartly, Greenwood’s latest is also wonderfully written, evoking a strong sense of place with lush, visually evocative prose.”– Library Journal STARRED REVIEW
WHERE I LOST HER “Spellbinding. A touching story of one woman’s loss and heartache, coupled with the electrifying search for a young girl. I loved everything about Where I Lost Her." --Mary Kubica, bestselling author of The Good Girl
“Searing, heartbreaking, and suspenseful.” --Publishers Weekly
THE FOREVER BRIDGE
“A compelling read.” --Tawni O’Dell, New York Times bestselling author of Back Roads
“T. Greenwood delves into the pain of grief, and brings the reader to a place of hope and, yes, even joy.” --Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and An Italian Wife
BODIES OF WATER
“A complex and compelling portrait of the painful intricacies of love and loyalty. Book clubs will find much to discuss in T. Greenwood’s insightful story of two women caught between their hearts and their families.” --Eleanor Brown, New York Times bestselling author of The Weird Sisters
“By turns beautiful and tragic, haunting and healing, I was captivated from the very first line.” --Jillian Cantor, author of Margot
“A poetic, compelling story that glows in its subtle, yet searing examination of how we attempt to fill the potentially devastating fissures in our lives.” --Amy Hatvany, author of Heart Like Mine
“Exceptionally well-observed. Readers who enjoy insightful and sensitive family drama will appreciate discovering Greenwood.” --Library Journal
About the Author
T. Greenwood is the author of eleven novels. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Maryland State Arts Council.
TWO RIVERS was named 2009 Best General Fiction Book at the San Diego Book Awards, and GRACE received the same award for 2012. Five of her novels have been BookSense76/IndieBound picks; THIS GLITTERING WORLD was a January 2011 selection, and GRACE was a selection in April 2012. Her eighth novel, BODIES OF WATER, was a 2014 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist. WHERE I LOST HER was released on February 23, 2016.
She teaches creative writing for San Diego Writer's Ink, Grossmont College, and online for The Writer's Center. She and her husband, Patrick, live in San Diego, CA with their two daughters. She is also an aspiring photographer.
More information on T. Greenwood can be found at her website: http://www.tgreenwood.com and her blogs: http://www.mermama.blogspot.com and http://www.ephemerafiles.blogspot.com
T. GREENWOOD'S RUST AND STARDUST PRE-EMPTED BY ST. MARTIN'S Publishers Marketplace | February 23, 2017
T. Greenwood’s RUST AND STARDUST, when an 11-year old is kidnapped in 1948 by a convicted felon, so begins a 21-month journey exploring both the crime and criminal as well as the effect upon the girl, her family left behind, and her community; the spark upon which Vladimir Nabakov based LOLITA, a literary thriller and kaleidoscopic family portrait, to Hope Dellon at St. Martin’s, in a two-book deal, for publication in Spring 2018, by Victoria Sanders at Victoria Sanders & Associates (World).