Book Review Addendum: More on The Witch Elm

I’ve finished Tana French’s The Witch Elm, all 500+ pages of it, and it’s a really good book. Highly recommend. When I last wrote about it, having finished about a quarter of the story, I called it a novel of identity and place.

Beyond that, French gives us the theme very early in the narrative. The young protagonist, Toby,  thinks of himself as a lucky person. Then he tells us, “It’s taken me this long to start thinking about what luck can be, how smoothly and deliciously deceptive, how relentlessly twisted and knotted in on its own hidden places, and how lethal.

You can imagine then, as a reader, that a murder is in the offing — perhaps more than one.

I find the self-identification as “a lucky person” really interesting.

I’m thinking about self-identification because I’m about to conduct a pro bono board retreat, and I have to introduce myself to the participants — briefly. I hate these long winded recitations of everything a consultant has done since the dawn of time. Really, if anyone cares, all of that is available via a quick Google search. Rather, I have to give them a quick sense of who I am as a person, and suggest in a very few words why they should trust that in the time we’ll spend together, they’ll be in good hands.

I’m thinking of saying that I’m Irish in heritage and thus a good storyteller, so they won’t be bored. Then I’d say that I’ve led board retreats a lot, so no matter what happens, I’ll keep the experience on an even keel and bring us to someplace productive at the end. Then I’ll say that I’m an intensely curious person, so I’m really interested in where they are and where they go from here. Interesting … competent… curious. 

Would I also say that I’m lucky? I think not. The context isn’t right — for purposes of our retreat day, they don’t really care if I’m lucky or not.

But do I think I’m lucky? Maybe, if lucky means that a lot of things have worked out for me — albeit with a great deal of hard work and some severe and damaging losses along the way. I wouldn’t say that I’m lighthearted, far from it, if being lucky suggests a certain lightness of heart. Not my persona. But lucky? Maybe.

And you? If you picked three words to describe yourself, would “lucky” be one of them?

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