More Than You Know: A Novel

Written by Beth Gutcheon
Review by Nanette Donohue

Two stories, set in the small coastal town of Dundee, Maine, fifty years apart, converge in this enthralling novel. In the present day, an elderly woman returns to Dundee to tell the story of the Depression-era summer when her life turned upside down.

When she is seventeen, Hannah Gray and her family rent a summer cottage in her grandparents’ hometown of Dundee. Little does she know that the house where they’re staying was once a schoolhouse on now-uninhabited Beal Island, the scene of a Lizzie Borden-style axe murder years before. Only she and Conary Crocker, the town rebel with whom she falls in love, ever see the ghost – a malevolent old woman with burning eyes – who haunts both Hannah’s home and its former location on the island.

In 1858, in a parallel tale, gentle, quiet Claris Osgood marries taciturn Danial Haskell, a Beal Island resident, despite her parents’ disapproval. They fear he’ll eventually harden into his family’s deep-rooted strict Baptist beliefs – and too soon, they’re proven right. As the years pass, the repressed anger in the Haskell household reaches a breaking point with Danial’s murder. But who among three women is the evil ghost who terrorizes both Hannah and Conary? Which of them is Danial’s killer? All have motives: wife Claris, who hates the life she’s now living; daughter Sallie, forbidden by her father from seeing her boyfriend; and their boarder, schoolteacher Mercy Chatto, who has her own reasons for hating Danial. The fact that she wasn’t able to discover the answer to these questions in time is what haunts Hannah to this day.

Author Gutcheon is adept at making all her characters seem real; she demonstrates her ability to recreate both the joy of true love and the power of evil, at times only moments apart. Few writers can write with such sustained intensity. Be prepared to stay up late with this one!