The Shepherd Express
Eddy and Will are brothers on separate paths. Although they live only a few miles apart, in the Northwoods town of Moon Lake, they might as well be on different planets. Eddy is a low-energy hustler, content to play small time in their father’s realty business. Will is a DNR ranger, in love with nature and at home—literally, in a makeshift cabin—in the woods.
When their father, dying of cancer, schemes to turn a nature preserve into a real estate development (and make both sons rich), the brothers are on a collision course.
And that’s not the end to the family drama in Thicker Than Water, the new novel by Milwaukee author Geoff Carter. Also heard from are the women of Moon Lake, as Carter explores the resentment and regrets of Eddy’s wife Naomi. Although working fulltime, she is left with all domestic and childrearing duties and sees herself at a dead end. Thicker Than Water endows each major character with a measure of sympathy.
Carter is hosting a virtual launch at 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 26 on Facebook Live with live music that will start a little beforehand.
He answered some questions about Thicker Than Water.
Do you have a connection with a place like Moon Lake? And your opening sentences sound as if you have at least a nodding acquaintance with ice fishing?
Yes, I do know a place like Moon Lake. We used to spend every summer at the family cabin near a town called Lake Tomahawk in Oneida County. It’s a nice little town, about four blocks long, and the people there are much nicer than those in Moon Lake. Places in the novel like The Purple Onion, The Market Basket and Pinky’s Bait & Tackle were modeled on places that once existed there.
I have done some ice-fishing, and I sort of agree with Al McGuire’s assessment of it. He said something like, “Ice-fishing is like hitting yourself in the head with a two by four. It feels really good when you stop.” It is cold, although if you’re in a shelter, it’s not too bad. Especially if you have some peppermint schnapps.
I do like the quiet and the purity of ice-fishing, although it is a little eerie sitting out there on the frozen lake. It’s dead quiet and when the ice creaks beneath your feet—and it can be loud—you feel just how insignificant you really are in that vastness.
Did you have any literary models of family tension in mind when writing Thicker Than Water?
I did have a general idea of the nature of the sibling rivalry between Will and Eddy when I started the book, but it wasn’t based on a specific literary model. I had sort of a Cain and Abel story in mind, sort of like John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, but I didn’t consciously use that book as a model.
I was struck by the silence you describe in the woods. Do we need more silence in contemporary society?
Yeah, I think more silence in our society would be a positive thing. I think too many of us are so constantly plugged in and bombarded with chatter and noise that we don’t have the time or the space to think—which is probably part of the point of being plugged in. Distraction seems to be our new mantra.
Personally, I always loved being in the woods or out on the canoe (or on the ice) as a way to not only enjoy the quiet, but to also absorb the rhythms of the lake and the forest. Letting yourself sink into the natural world is relaxing and therapeutic.
What are own thoughts about the rapid decline of our environment and the diminishing wild spaces in our world?
Like many others, I am appalled and disgusted at the continuing destruction of habitat and wild spaces worldwide. Not only are our Wisconsin wild spaces at risk, but climate change is threatening the health of the planet. Look at the devastation of the Australian wildfires last winter. The rain forests are disappearing, and the ice caps are melting. And for what? Profit. We have the solutions and the technology to make ourselves entirely renewable and to stop this destruction. We have to continue to exercise the people’s will in order to implement these solutions.
Great details in your book—a “skulk of foxes.” Did you know this stuff or did you have to look it up?
I knew about the terms of venery like “skulk of foxes” and “romp of otters” from research I did for a blog post I wrote a while ago. It started when I did a search for myself on Facebook and a few dozen “Geoff Carters” appeared. Then an invitation to join The Geoff Carter Consortium popped up; apparently, myself and my namesakes were organized. But I began to wonder if consortium was the best name for our club. Maybe an identification of Geoff Carters or a cornucopia of Carters might be more apt. That’s when I started researching the collective nouns for animals. These terms do apply to people, too—a superfluity of nuns, a fighting of beggars, a reluctance of Republicans, or a dithering of Democrats.
For more information, visit https://geoffreymalcolmcarter.com/2020/07/14/thicker-than-water-virtual-book-launch/