When five-year-old Joshua Christopher disappears off the street as he walks to a friend’s birthday party, his family is forced to confront the unimaginable. What happened? Why? Who took him? The convicted sex offender caught lurking near the search? Why won’t police leave his family, his parents, alone?
In his second novel, his first in twenty years, Robert H. Van Wagoner explores a family in extremis tottering at the edge of faith: in God and church, in family, and in marriage, in the institutions that promise safety and meaning. Both lyrical and explosive, The Contortionists unfolds as a page-turning mystery. Van Wagoner’s wrenching narrative propels the reader forward, toward the novel’s harrowing climax, while deftly unpacking its major themes—mental illness, sexuality, and substance abuse in a culture that would rather not confront them. Does the truth ever set anyone ultimately free? The stakes for Joshua and his family could not be greater.
Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner’s debut novel, Dancing Naked, received the Utah Book Award and the Utah Original Writing Competition’s Publication Prize. His short stories and interviews have appeared in periodicals, e-zines, and anthologies, and have been selected for various awards, including Carolina Quarterly’s Charles B. Wood Award for Distinguished Writing, Shenandoah’s Jeanne Charpiot Goodheart Award for Fiction, Sunstone’s Brookie and D. K. Brown Memorial Fiction Award, and Weber: The Contemporary West’s Dr. O. Marvin Lewis Award for Best Fiction. He resides in Washington state.