The Clearing

Written by Tim Gautreaux
Review by Jetta Culpepper

This classic Southern gothic novel is set in the cypress forest of Louisiana in the 1920s. The rich plot of family, marriage, and sacrifices to create a community in the wilderness is so enticing that I found it hard to put down. Bryon Aldridge, heir to a Pennsylvania timber empire, returns to the States from World War I with psychological problems. The older and once charming son now evades his father by taking jobs as a lawman. In contrast to the frequent murders, many acts of caring and love appear throughout the story. Once Bryon is found working in a lumber town, his family purchases the mill. Then their father sends Raymond, the younger brother, to manage the business as he attempts to reach his confused sibling.

Gautreaux’s descriptions of the sultry swamps, abundance of snakes, and alligator sightings are prominent in the plot. Conflict with the Sicilians who control liquor, women, and card games in this rough mill town lends more evidence to the author’s historical knowledge and writing skills.