Thin Ris­ing Va­pors

Seth Ro­goff Sag­ging Menis­cus Press (OC­TO­BER) Soft­cover $20 (252pp), 978-1-944697-70-9

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - MERED­ITH GRAHL COUNTS

In Seth Ro­goff’s melan­choly novel, Thin Ris­ing Va­pors, a man tries to step out of time in the year­round soli­tude of a re­mote Maine sum­mer home.

Monk­ish, Thoreau-quot­ing Abel is re­vealed only af­ter his death by ap­par­ent sui­cide, when his old friend Ezra comes to read through the jour­nals and sto­ries he wrote in seclu­sion. The book is equal parts a mys­tery (what drove Abel to the wild, and why did he die as he did?) and a por­trait of an en­dur­ing friend­ship be­tween two men who camped to­gether as boys. Abel’s shock­ing death hangs like a low fog through­out the story, present but mys­te­ri­ous, driv­ing the story for­ward and main­tain­ing sus­pense.

Be­cause Abel had dropped out of so­ci­ety, Ezra fol­lows suit, leav­ing his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties be­hind to im­merse him­self in Abel’s jour­nals, which are full of al­lu­sions, de­scrip­tions of life in the woods, and ac­counts of his chang­ing re­la­tion­ships with the two sis­ters next door. Ezra’s nar­ra­tion and Abel’s writ­ing re­veal their en­twined pasts—char­ac­ter­ized by idyl­lic child­hood sum­mers, but not with­out deep losses.

At first, Ezra stays in con­tact with his fam­ily. But then his phone dies, fol­lowed by his car bat­tery. Alone, he en­ters Abel’s thoughts like wad­ing through bracken, es­pe­cially the jour­nal’s out-of-or­der sto­ries-within-the-story. The lake, the coun­try store, the neigh­bors, hikes, and dirt roads are all keenly ob­served. There’s not a love tri­an­gle per se, but rather a four-pointed shape of lust and de­sire to be un­der­stood. Both sis­ters are com­pelling, and the ro­man­tic as­pects of the book defy clichés.

Thin Ris­ing Va­pors is a con­sum­ing, wist­ful novel, pleas­ing in its el­e­ments of na­ture ap­pre­ci­a­tion, friend­ship, and sus­pense.

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