Ann Joslin Williams' father, Thomas Williams, was born in Minnesota but grew up in New Hampshire and died there years ago. Almost all of his work is set in New Hampshire, in particular the small fictional town of Leah. The town is the setting for his best-known novel, "The Hair of Harold Roux," which shared the National Book Award in 1975. Ann Williams was also raised in New Hampshire. "Down From Cascom Mountain" (Bloomsbury, $25) is her first novel and it is, like the work of her father, steeped in the state's landscape and sensibility.
The people of New Hampshire are the rootstock of New England individuality. A grain of this grit exists in each one of her characters, despite their apparent vulnerabilities. The main character, Mary, grows up at the foot of the ominous Cascom Mountain.
When Mary was 17 and working with a National Forest Service crew on the mountain, a young man was found dead, a combination of alcohol and hypothermia. His girlfriend, an albino, last seen with him by passing hikers, disappears and becomes part of the local mythology -- the ghost girl. The stormy light in New Hampshire permeates the novel.
Mary grows up, marries, and brings her husband back to the house at the foot of Cascom Mountain. Shortly after their happy arrival, her husband falls from a ledge and dies. The novel is layered with death -- past and present.
Ann Williams' novel contains a smaller world than her father's novels. She follows her characters' moods more closely. The reader is deeply invested, caught up in Mary's grieving. Their stories are made memorable.