This week we’re looking at a tale with a very interesting spin on the classic dual timeline story. This week we’re looking at Dovetail by Karen McQuestion.
Growing up, my dad watched a lot of This Old House with Steve Thomas and Norm Abrams, as well as Abrams’ other show The New Yankee Workshop. Abrams in particular was an old school wood worker, and This Old House routinely featured shows that were even then 80 years old (over a century old today). So from a wood working side… I saw a lot of dovetails on TV as a child of the 80s and 90s. In this tale, McQuestion even describes them perfectly as she is describing an early 20th century man’s own wood working: a particular join of wood that makes the wood near inseparable even without any kind of glue or other fastener. And it truly is a thing of beauty when done properly, a join that actually adds to the overall beauty of the piece it is a part of.
And let me tell you… this particular story does the woodworking technique justice. McQuestion here does a pretty dramatic departure from her 2019 work Good Man Dalton, which was much lighter and airier. Instead, here we see rural early 20th century mores in full effect, as well as strong themes of jealousy and possession with disastrous results and lifelong regret. But what makes this story truly stand out is exactly how McQuestion executes the dovetail. When you’ve read as many books as I have, you see a lot of dual timeline stories these days. Hell, even the recently ended Arrow tv show famously used dual timelines in its entire run, even long after its initial run of them was over. What you don’t see, what I’ve never seen done before quite like this, is the exact mechanism McQuestion chooses to use to tell that particular story and have it dovetail with what is happening in the more current (though still nearly 40 years prior to the time I write this, and indeed in the year of my birth) story. I don’t want to give it away, even though the description speaks of it, simply because it was so well done and watching it unfold was truly a thing of beauty.
Indeed, in one particular section I was actually expecting one thing to happen – what I would have expected if I was in that situation, with a .308 hunting rifle and scope – and even here, McQuestion chose instead to continue with the dovetail.
Truly a phenomenal work, and very much recommended.
As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Perfectly Executed. This was an interesting take on the dual timeline approach, where the connection between the two timelines is both standard and… not. Standard in that the older characters in the more current timeline are much younger in the older timeline, not in … exactly how the older timeline is revealed. This is a drastic departure from the feel-good story of McQuestion’s 2019 work Good Man, Dalton, but is perhaps even more interesting because of it. Here we get much darker themes of possession, abuse, and regret, but we also get a seemingly accurate portrayal of life in rural 1916 and 1983 and the hope that could exist in both eras. Truly excellent work, and solid evidence of McQuestion’s adaptability as a storyteller. Very much recommended.