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Passersthrough is a quick and eerie read. Similar to My Abandonment (one of Peter Rock's first novels), there is a complicated father-daughter relationship at the core of the plot, and Rock portrays the tension and unease of it well. Much of the writing has a dream like quality where you question whether the characters are dreaming, insane, or have slipped into another reality. Set in Portland and the surrounding wooded areas, there is a very Pacific Northwest dreariness that lends gloom and apprehension to the atmosphere.— Mal
A father and his estranged daughter reconnect to try to understand a decades-old trauma in this haunting novel, part ghost story, part lyrical exploration of family, aging, and how we remember the past.
At age 11, Helen disappeared in the wilderness of Mount Rainier National Park while camping with her father, Benjamin. She was gone for almost a week before being discovered and returned to her family. It is now 25 years later, and after more than two decades of estrangement, Helen and Benjamin reconnect at his home in Portland, Oregon, to try to understand what happened during the days she was gone. Meanwhile, Benjamin meets an odd pair, a woman and boy who seem driven to help him learn more about Helen’s disappearance and send him on a journey that will lead to a murder house, uncanny possession, and a bone-filled body of water known as Sad Clown Lake, a lake “that could only be found by getting lost, that was never in the same place twice.”
Passersthrough is a haunted, starkly lyrical novel set on the border between life and death.
About the Author
Peter Rock is the author of ten previous works of fiction, including My Abandonment, which won the Alex Award and was adapted into the film Leave No Trace. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and is a professor of creative writing at Reed College. His previous novel, The Night Swimmers, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. He lives in Portland with his wife and two daughters.
Praise for Passersthrough
“Passersthrough touches upon the unique trials and rewards a paternal connection brings, with added ingredients including spirit possession, moving lakes full of bones, and murder house—just for good measure . . . Mourning things both alive and dead and accepting hard truths resonate deeply in these pages and will utterly chill you . . . but contentedly so.”
“Like Peter Rock's ten previous works of fiction, his new novel mixes characters who live on the margins of society with those in the mainstream.”
—The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Passersthrough paints in broad strokes that, despite their occasionally maddening ambiguity, form an evocative portrait of grief and the magical thinking that suffuses our longings to communicate with the loved ones we’ve lost. It’s affecting, perhaps more so in the hours and days that follow the turning of the final page, when the hazy, inscrutable impressions left by Rock’s discerning hand continue to provoke and haunt.”
—Chicago Review of Books
“An unnerving mystery that dissects the way secrets can fester when left in the dark for too long . . . a haunting, lovely book, made even lovelier by its familiar, mossy setting.”
—Powell's Books Blog
“Passersthrough, with its often-wild Northwest locales, explores the things we can’t know no matter how much we try, as well as our continued desire to uncover them.”
—Writing the Northwest
“A captivating page-turner . . . Its best elements, like its supernatural overtures, are reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999).”
“An eerie account of the attempted reconciliation between an estranged father and daughter . . . Rock draws on the mountain scenery to create a surreal atmosphere, culminating in a haunting scene of disaster.”
“Passersthrough is a difficult novel to pigeonhole—part ghost story, part family saga, part mystery, and all eerie and beautifully written. The results entwine into a book of not-so-easily solved mysteries, enigmas, and a haunting ending that chills while it warms the heart.”
—Bill C., An Unlikely Story (Plainville, MA)
“A gripping narrative surrounding a camping experience and a trip to a 'murder house,' where Benjamin’s world collides with the 'other' world . . . I was mesmerized by this narrative and the people in it. Peter Rock is a champion of ethereal suspense!”
—Linda B., Auntie's Bookstore (Spokane, WA)
Praise for the work of Peter Rock
“Haunting and elliptical.”
—The New York Times
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Lyrical, mystifying, and wrenching.”
—The Boston Globe
“Fascinating and moving.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin
“Surreal, haunting, elegiac.”