Exploration of Humans and Nature in In Caddis Wood by Mary Francois Rockcastle
Why Mary Francois Rockcastle’s debut novel, Rainy Lake, was all about opposing forces, In Caddis Wood explores the parallel of humans and nature and how they interact and disrupt one another. Both novels focus on the strength of family in difficult times but while Rainy Lake is told through a teenager’s eyes, In Caddis Wood focuses on an aged married couple whose history haunts their present.
Hallie escapes to her family’s second home in Caddis Wood as often as she can. What is she escaping from? A husband who would rather be at work than at home. An emptiness left behind since her twin daughters moved far from home. A past filled with disastrous family deaths. And on top of all that, a long-ago affair and a serious illness are currently haunting Hallie’s marriage.
In Caddis Wood explores the inner workings of a marriage with a history. The lengthy timeline shows the reader that issues are not solved overnight; that marriage comes with a full history of mishaps, struggles, and hope.
Point of View
In Caddis Wood is told in alternating perspectives from Hallie’s and her husband’s, Carl, point of view. The overlap is small and the timeline large. The present time in the story covers many months and a lot of descriptive backstory stretches the timeline even more.
Connection to Nature
My favorite part of this novel was the characters’ connection to nature. As a nature-lover myself, I related to Hallie when she “escaped” during a long walk in the woods and enjoyed the in-depth knowledge of plants that was explained. Nature’s destructive power was also explored in the book through forest fires and hurricanes.
One parallel explored by Rockcastle was the destruction of nature and how it repairs itself, compared to the deteriorating health of Hallie’s husband, Carl, from a disease without a cure. As he is dying, Carl is working on an architecture project thats main aim is to rejuvenate an area of river that has turned into a polluted waste ground after years of commercial and public dumping. The team uses specific plants that soak up the pollution in the soil and whisk it away.
Although it is an interesting parallel, the comparison is too obvious for my liking. As a reader, I like connections/parallels/themes to be subtle, something to be uncovered. At one point, Hallie wonders aloud if nature can always find a way to rebuild itself, the why can’t doctors find a way to cure her husband.
3 stars. The book was well researched and written in excellent, smooth prose but the storyline itself didn’t connect with me. My young, unmarried self couldn’t connect to Hallie’s life-long marriage with drastic peaks and valleys. I enjoyed Rockcastle’s debut novel, Rainy Lake, much more!