Welcome to Varennes, where a young girl can bring the dead back to life and dogs and cats have strong opinions. In this new novel by prize-winning author Kathryn Davis, a New England village is beset by tragedy, affairs of the heart (and body) and the banal trappings of everyday life. Davis' revealing narrative takes us from one character to the next through shifting voices, including those of beloved pet dog Margaret and a patient in intensive care.

Davis draws on the ordinary elements of life in a small town to enlarge and magnify the extraordinary lives of its inhabitants. Police blotters with entries like 1:15 p.m. Out-of-control teenager on Maplewood Avenue turn readers into temporary residents, making them feel as if they're reading not a book but the daily newspaper. She creates vivid and compelling characters, from the aging Janet Peake, whose Parkinson's disease causes her whole body to vibrate lightly and without cease, like a struck tuning fork, to 12-year-old Mees Kipp, whose mysterious gift for healing contributes to the ethereal forces that connect the people and places of Varennes. While The Thin Place doesn't read like a political novel, readers will sense a certain indignation over the state of the natural world. It's not surprising, then, that nature plays a significant part in the lives of those who make Varennes their home. The presence of beaver traps their steel jaws open wide and baited with young aspen boughs scraped to show their tender white insides and comical though accurate descriptions of the conflict between man and nature hint at the author's concern about the destruction of the environment. A startling ending underscores the vulnerabilities that haunt all places, big and small. Complex characters assume their positions and are allowed and encouraged to do what they do best: protect the sanctity of small-town living and then, later, pay the consequences. Leslie Levine's most recent book is Wish It, Dream It, Do It.

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