The narrator notes that Kathy Wade, lying at the bottom of the lake, watches fish swimming. In Lake of the Woods, he continues, there is a large body of land called the “Northwest Angle.” In this area, there is both enormous beauty and great mystery. There are animals both alive and dead, and presumably the dead bodies of people who’ve been lost in Lake of the Woods, such as a group of hunters from 1958. Here, the narrator adds, everything is present, and everything is missing.
We’ve been given many jarring shifts in perspective in this novel, but this is without a doubt one of the strangest. The irony of this description of Kathy is that Kathy herself doesn’t see anything from the bottom of the lake—Kathy is dead. It’s the narrator who sees the lake through Kathy’s eyes. This is a highly illuminating distinction—though the narrator has been describing events from John and Kathy’s perspectives, we understand here that he’s only ever seeing the world from his own perspective.
The history of the Northwest Angle begins with glaciers, and then, later, French settlers from the 18th century. The area wasn’t charted until 1925, and it was impossible to get there without a plane or boat until 1969. There is a road on the Northwest Angle, and a dock, and a yellow cottage overlooking the water.
The yellow cottage on the Northwest Angle sounds a lot like the cottage from which John just came. The fact that the area is uncharted, and perhaps incapable of being charted completely, gives it the same air of mystery as the lake itself. There is something both frightening and peaceful about this place, much like the lake itself.
In the Northwest Angle, everything is an equal exchange. The surrounding waters change color throughout the year in an endless cycle from blue to gray to white to blue. It is in this place, at least in John’s imagination, that Kathy lies, staring up from beneath the water and trying to speak. She cannot speak—she isn’t present, and she isn’t gone.
The emphasis on equal exchange in this section is supposed to remind us of the equal relationship between John and Kathy that John had prophesized earlier, a relationship that they seemingly never found. The image of Kathy being neither present nor absent parallels John’s memories of Vietnam—he can neither remember them perfectly nor entirely forget them. Caught in this limbo, he can never move past the days when he was Sorcerer.