I read “Breakheart Hill” shortly after it was published, in 1995. The narrator, Dr. Ben Wade, looks back at a horrific tragedy of his childhood, trying to make sense of it some 30 years later. The incident, the death of a teenage girl the same age as the protagonist, resonates with him through the years. The story is told with current actions interspersed by memories and flash-backs, which give the story its impact. The tale is still very much alive to Dr. Wade, and hence, the reader.
I’m impressed by author Thomas Cook’s attention to detail, his description of emotion, and ability to preserve a secret, teasing his reader as he builds his mystery. He skirts a resolution of Kelli Troy’s death until the end.
Cook is a master story-teller, haunting the reader with his tale. The tragedy is, “Something that continually weaves through my consciousness, slithering into my mind from this corner or that, but always returning me to the past with this terrible immediacy, as if it had all happened yesterday and I was still reeling from the shock.” (p. 10.)
The subdued account captures the aura of a close-knit community, tarnished by a gruesome murder, where racism was part of life, but sublimated in this story.
I write non-fiction, but I love fiction. It is a challenge to write good fiction, to fill it with life-like emotions. This author has created an environment that captures the past (Choctaw, Alabama, 1962), yet preserves it in the present, making it feel real. I felt I was part of this mysterious love story, reliving the past. The story still haunts me.
Tom Dresser has lived in Oak Bluffs for 15 years, and is married to Joyce Cournoyer. They have seven grandchildren, which keeps them busy. He is enjoying semi-retirement, driving a school bus and writing during the day. His fifth book for the History Press, “Women of Martha’s Vineyard,” is due out on May 1.