A Review of Garrett’s Bones by Author Francis Webb, who has been published in The Antioch Review, The Literary Review, Northwest Review and The New York Times. Francis Webb is also “Listed in Stories of Distinction, Best American Short Stories 1981″, reviews Garrett’s Bones by author K. D. Dowdall.
It would seem impossible to have a beautiful forest with its lush dogwoods and “sunlight filtering through the dense canopy of trees,” and it’s gentle and not so gentle animal life transforming into a paranormal world along with evil emanating beneath and above “rotting tree trunks” and foxes and poisonous snakes disappearing into a “corpse of Hawthorne bushes”; however, “Garrett’s Bones” proves it can happen.
Anna and Garrett have grown up together playing and wandering in this beautiful forest near their homes, Garrett being an Indian in his mind, and maybe otherwise, and Anna discovering her ability to know the possibly unknowable and to see the probably unseeable. They create for themselves special hiding places and make contact with fleeting visions of kind Indians, scary ghosts of the past and spirits of the woods of all kinds. With the help and hindrance of these spirits, they are able to take on and accomplish—with great difficulty, danger and some violence—what appears to be the impossible, that of locating the murderer of a young girl whose body they discover draped over a fallen log.
When they come across a seemingly out of place mound in the earth, they dig in the dirt and pull out bones, including a skull. Garrett decides this was probably a sacred Indian burial ground, so they vow to make amends for this desecration, especially after having discovered the murdered girl. Clearly evil spirits are at play in the forest, and they must dispel them along with locating the perpetrator of this horrendous crime. Several subplots enrich this unusual novel, including stories of family dysfunction as well as the developing romance—with its side steps, blockages and intrigue—between Anna and Garrett. I also enjoyed learning the details of Indian lore and fortune telling and about the lives of spirits, past and present.
What I found so satisfying and intriguing was the way the author created and sustained an exquisite feeling of suspense by stopping the narrative at a crucial point in the mystery with lush and rich language describing the secrets of the natural world, both their beauty and their predatory nature. Invariably these descriptions, while beautiful in themselves, point to the presence or resolution of the mystery. As an example, the aforementioned “corpse of Hawthorne bushes” foreshadows beautifully the soon to be discovered murdered body. These foreshadowings, as well as many other ominous figures of speech tell us of future horrors with many springing from “innocent” descriptions of nature, all of which added significantly to my enjoyment of “Garrett’s Bones”, which I highly recommend for an exciting, frightening, and historically accurate good read.