Things Too Big To Name by Molly Best Tinsley

This guest review by Nora S. of Things Too Big To Name is made possible by a review copy provided at no charge.

Things Too Big To Name Author Molly Best Tinsley

Things Too Big To Name

“She had penetrated my sanctuary, false as it was, built of knowledge and art, a little wisdom, the dead white males mindfully offset by contingents of under-appreciated women. Remnants of a civilization that seems impotent these days to arrest its own decline and fall.”

Professor Margaret Torrens is surly, she’s socially anxious, she’s sarcastic, but above all else she’s secluded. Living alone in a cabin in the mountains, Margaret has become used to a solitary lifestyle and the peace of mind that it provides. However, her world is shaken one day when a former student randomly shows up at her door with her young daughter in tow. The student—Jane asks if they can stay the night. Margaret initially wishes to refuse but some long-forgotten softness in her sees that the mother and daughter are in some kind of trouble and agrees to let them stay. Of course, one night becomes several and then weeks.

Margaret is, on some level, curious to figure out exactly what kind of trouble would cause Jane to quit her job, load up her special needs child and drive 17 hours to ask for help from a professor that she has not spoken to in years. All of this is, of course, revealed but I won’t say more to keep from spoiling anything.

This book had a lot of twists and turns that I did not see coming. I really enjoyed Molly Best Tinsley’s style of writing and flashback-style of storytelling. The story pulled me in from the very first page, which I can’t usually say of any books. I would love to read more from this author and see what else she has to say. Tinsley is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime talent that makes you want to read everything they put out. Five stars!

About the Book:

  • Title: Things Too Big To Name
  • Author: Molly Best Tinsley
  • Print and ebook: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Fuze Publishing

Margaret Torrens trades academia for early retirement and the solitude of a cabin in the Oregon mountains. Four months later, she is locked in a ward for the criminally insane undergoing assessment, and a charge of murder is in the air. Pried out of her by an impatient young psychologist, Margaret’s story features Jane Farrow–a former student, who showed up at the cabin uninvited with an odd, mute child in tow–and Victor–Margaret’s alleged victim, who put his claim on both. As Margaret works to control this narrative of the recent past, she is waylaid by secrets, borne by the ghost of her young husband, lost decades before.

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Things Too Big To Name Excerpt:


On the evening of December 13, I was not speeding, and alcohol was not involved. It never is with me. Counter to all those studies promoting red wine for heart health, I’ve got anecdotal proof that it suppresses the immune system. A glass of pinot noir one day, a sore throat the next. What used to get me through unhappy hour was exercise.

. . . I was heading back to my cabin from the YMCA in Pine Springs. I assume you’re familiar with the town, in the foothills of the Siskiyous—a pretty little grid of craftsman bungalows, all refurbished with clashy combinations of paint. For some time now, it’s been a sort of mecca for retired Californians with financial security and utopian tendencies. Thinking I didn’t belong there because I had neither, I settled on a wooded acre off a road leading into the mountains.

I won’t go into that now. I suspect I’m already far afield, and I’m sorry if I stepped onto my Life Path at a point that might seem frivolous to you. But killing is complicated. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that. It deserves all the background it can get.

. . . At the Y in Novato, where I used to live, I alternated running on the treadmill, climbing the stairmaster, and circuit training with Pilates and swimming laps, and it was a huge relief after I moved north to be able to get to the gym and pick up the same routine. The relocation was a major change—across state lines, urban to small-town rural—and my mind tends to confuse major change with incontrollable catastrophe. I need routines—they mean survival, never boredom. But here’s the rub: no matter how diligently you stick to a routine, how much you give up to do so, disruptions occur.

That evening the dusk outside, a gray limbo, had spread to my brain. I was close to believing the sensation was contentment. In my new, sparsely populated world of early retirement, no responsibilities loomed on the horizon. Wasn’t it a good thing to have nothing I had to do?

Then out of nowhere, mass and movement blotted the headlights.

As a novice at country life, I’d been instructed never to swerve for deer; the consequences can be much worse than ramming straight into one. So I gripped the wheel hard and didn’t swerve. I did hit the brake, but too gently, thinking that if I stomped on it, the car might skid, skidding being very close to swerving, which I was determined not to do.

Neither swerving nor braking with conviction, I heard a sound like the universe clearing its throat, and a creature took shape, huge and glowing with branching antlers, a regal profile, and single wild eye. Followed by a blank. A gap of non-thought. I knew I’d been in it only when I popped out the other side on a flood of questions.

What was that? I asked aloud, because whatever it was had disappeared. 5:09, answered the digital clock on the dash. Had I been knocked unconscious? Or did the animal take only a split second, a true eye blink, to vanish, leaving me sitting there, belted in? Did that mean the creature was unharmed? Not likely: though the airbag remained dormant, the hood of my car had buckled into two crests. I tried to imagine the impact and cringed.

My clothing brands me petite, and though I loathe the word, my size is a fact, a figment of fate, passed down from my mother. (The matter of strength has been mine to control.) I had to straighten and stretch and still could barely see over the crumpled steel. The road ahead was empty. On either side, dark walls of brush and trees.

I drove on, hot with shame (a reaction I seem to be more vulnerable to than most)—an old(er) woman in a mangled Subaru, behind her somewhere, a badly injured animal, the two of them pathetically linked by a moment of random chance. The two drivers I passed were laughing at me, I was sure, but a reality check said no, night was falling over everything except headlights—and one of mine had been knocked out. Darkness would have hidden the ruptured hood, the clouds of steam billowing from it, and no one could have heard the clunking and grinding from the engine or seen me inside, wrestling the wheel, which was freezing up as fast as the power steering fluid was trickling out on the road.

About the Author: In an episode of sanity, award winning author, Molly Tinsley resigned from the English faculty at the US Naval Academy and moved west to write full-time.

She is the author of MY LIFE WITH DARWIN (Houghton Mifflin) and THROWING KNIVES (Ohio State University Press), she also co-authored SATAN’S CHAMBER (Fuze Publishing) and the textbook, THE CREATIVE PROCESS (St. Martin’s). Her more recent books are the memoir ENTERING THE BLUE STONE and another Victoria Pierce spy thriller, sequel to SATAN’S CHAMBER: BROKEN ANGELS.

Her fiction has earned two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sandstone Prize, and the Oregon Book Award. Her fiction has been widely published and her plays have been read and produced nationwide. She lives in Ashland, Oregon.

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Things Too Big To Name Author Molly Best Tinsley

A complimentary copy of Things Too Big To Name was received in exchange for an honest review.

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  1. Thanks so much for hosting!

  2. Looks like an intriguing read.

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