Man in the Woods by Scott Spencer

Man in the WoodsKate Ellis and Paul Phillips are lovers living together in New York’s Hudson River Valley with Kate’s daughter, Ruby. Kate, who is a recovering alcoholic, has found religion and has written a bestselling inspirational book about her journey to sobriety. Paul, on the other hand, is not religious, but is deeply spiritual — especially about man’s responsibility to always do what’s right.

It is clear from the start that Kate and Paul deeply love each other, and together, they have the perfect relationship. All that soon changes, however, when Paul impulsively stops by a wooded park on his way home from an especially stressful day in New York City. Here, he comes across a man beating his dog, and when Paul tries to intervene on behalf of the dog, a fight breaks out. Paul ends up killing the man in a sudden rage. Not knowing what to do, Paul takes the dog and flees the scene.

Not able to live with this terrible secret, Paul tells Kate and she supports him. Time passes by and, oddly, they hear nothing about the man who was killed in the news. Can it be that Paul will never be discovered as the killer? They begin to hope that the incident will fade into the past.

This novel, brilliantly written with beautiful imagery and depth, asks central questions about the role religion plays in our lives, and if living a morally sound life can make up for a random and accidental act of egregious transgression. Tension begins with the murder, and builds throughout until the astonishing, never-to-be-forgotten ending.

Ecco/HarperCollins; ISBN 978-0-06146-657-1; $14.99.

Man in the Woods: Reading Guide

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