By William Kent Krueger
Pub. Atria Books, hardcover,
September, 2009, 321 pages
This is a dense, emotionally packed novel that fully illuminates the author’s talent and command of his material. Krueger frequently remarks that he writes about family relationships and about Northern Minnesota. In Heaven’s Keep readers get both in spades. But there’s more.
Here, Cork O’Conner is forced to go out of his comfort zone, the mythical Aurora, Minnesota and journey to Wyoming, to a forbidding and lonely part of the state at the edge of the Rocky Mountains during a stormy time of year. The catalyst is that Cork’s wife Jo, an attorney, is flying by private charter to Seattle for a conference of Native American leaders. The plane disappears and the early part of the novel deals with the agony and frustration of not knowing the fate of the passengers. Krueger’s intelligent and intriguing twist on the plot is that Cork and Jo parted on testy terms at the Aurora airport. They were arguing about O’Connor’s future, and the future of Sam’s Place, Cork’s burger shack on the shores of Iron Lake.
Thus, O’Connor’s grief over Jo’s loss is compounded and when, much later new and unsettling information about the pilot of the plane surfaces, the O’Connor family is thrown into new emotional turmoil. Throughout this book, Krueger’s control of the plot, the character changes, and the family relationships, is sure handed and, for the most part will be satisfying to the reader. This is a novel that deserves a wide readership. It is one that is satisfying in all its elements, and will stay with readers well after the final page.