Those that read Kent Meyers’ debut novel The River Warren knew of the writer’s inherent potency, a seemingly effortless blend of crisp lucidity, deep insight and an originality that stood head and shoulders above his competition. Meyers vivid portraits of Midwestern life had a stirring resonance and a deep conviction that let the characters themselves tell the story and not Meyers. Much like Don Kurtz’s South of the Big Four or Kent Haruf’s Plainsong, the Minnesota native weaves a lyrical and faithful interpretation of Midwestern life, and in doing so turns a dark and mysterious tale into a stirring triumph of poignancy and courage.
His latest offering Twisted Tree builds on the same hallmarks of his craft but goes far deeper. An interwoven story about Hayley Joe Zimmerman, a murdered teenage girl, the novel offers a collective look back at her memory through the eyes of various town residents. Participants include the girl’s best friend Laura Morrison; her best friend’s mother Angela Morrison;, Angela’s ex-lover, an ex-priest that baptized Hayley Joe; Hayley Joe’s boyfriend; Haley Joe’s murderer and a horde of other indelible and richly layered characters. In less capable hands a book like this could certainly fall apart, but Twisted Tree remains taut and suspenseful from the first page to the last. In short, it’s as close to a masterwork as any released in 2009. If this doesn’t put Meyers on the shelf alongside Raymond Carver or Peter Matthiessen, then nothing will.