Some Brief Thoughts on A Place Behind the World by David Hazard
I should known better than to read anything but escape literature while I'm still in my post-surgical haze of pain and medications, but I'm trying to clear paper books off my shelf, and A Place Behind the World looked about the right size to tackle (187 pages), and it had lots of white space. The size was right, but the content just didn't fit where I am today.
When we meet Mary, a single woman who works for an ad agency in Washington, D.C., she is lost in a woods near her workplace. She had been headed for an appointment with a man in the park but doesn't see him. Someone is calling her name and she fears him. From there we see her continuing struggle to find her way through the threatening woods with an ice storm closing in as she tries to flee from an unknown assailant or kidnapper.
About every five pages there is a flashback to a scene from Mary's past that gives us a glimpse of an abandoned child, molested by someone she had trusted, and betrayed too often by men she had trusted in her search for love. We meet Olivia, her only true lifelong friend, and Olivia's father who had been always kind as both a father figure and a Sunday School teacher. We meet Uncle Oliver, the only one in her family who made her feel loved, and Aunt Lucile, who usually made her feel unloveable and unloved.
For over 150 pages we see Mary alternately struggling to get out of a hostile environment and escape “the hunter,” as she tries to follow the instructions of the illusive Michael who promises to protect her. I won't spoil the end for you as Mary finally realizes that Michael was right about the woods in this “place behind the world” being a place of reckoning, but she began to doubt whether Michael was who he claimed to be. She wasn't sure whom to trust .
I won't try to analyze the author's message or theme here. I think you will see it soon enough if you read the book. I have seen this theme handled better by other authors, but not often in fiction . It may be only my physical state that made it hard to get into this book, but I don't think so. I think the author could have achieved the same effect without belaboring the struggle in the woods with seemingly unending descriptions of the hostile darkness, the freezing cold, the tall and sharp rocks that she had to find a way to tunnel through, the rising fog, the murky water, etc. I would have preferred less time in the woods and more time moving more quickly through the flashbacks .
After the end I went back to the beginning to piece the book together. The struggle was important, but even after I understood why it was so important, I think less pages could have been spent on descriptions of the woods and rocks with little harm to the plot and message. I might recommend this book to those who struggle with guilty secrets or know those who do. Those who have been unable to form healthy relationships with men might also find value in reading it. I think I would have preferred a mystery today.
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