Books by Lawrence Thornton

SAILORS ON THE INWARD SEA by Lawrence Thornton
Released: Sept. 8, 2004

Thornton (Tales from the Blue Archives, 1997, etc.) tries hard to re-evoke the life and times of the Polish-English novelist Joseph Conrad (1857-1924). Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 5, 1997

The rousing, tearjerking last of a trilogy (Imagining Argentina, 1987; Naming the Spirits, 1995) involving Argentine psychic Carlos Rueda. Though only bit players here, Rueda and his daughter Teresa appear among many eerie, magical-realist touches in this richly, evocatively told, blood-is-thicker-than-blood melodrama. As the proud and fatuous Argentine General Rodolfo Guzm†n attends the christening of his grandson, hoping that the future generation will benefit from the horrors he's committed, Dolores Masson, a grandmother, still mourns the loss of her family in Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo, especially her two grandsons, then infants, who were among the desaparecidos—the unknown millions abducted, tortured, and murdered by the country's now-deposed military junta. Refusing to give up hope, Masson visits Rueda and Teresa and is told that the boys, now teenagers, are alive and well in the remote fishing village of Mar Vista. Masson immediately departs for Mar Vista, hoping to bring the boys back home but failing to consider how the intervening years may have affected them. Indeed, Manfredo and Tom†s have no memory of their real parents, or even of their former names. To make matters more complicated, General Guzm†n, possibly implicated in yet another revelation of political atrocities committed while the military was in power, gave the boys to their foster parents, Eduardo and Biatrix Ponce, who once tended a killing field for him. Causing more emotional harm than good, Masson, with her knowledge of the boys' birthmarks, gets custody while the two undergo genetic testing. The general, fearing exposure of darker deeds, tries to sabotage the tests, setting off a series of suspenseful, grandly tragic plot twists ultimately leading to suicide, murder, and a rain of lamentation. For all its operatic pomp, Thornton's vision of beyond-the-grave revenge and retribution comes off as heartwrenchingly sincere. A simmering, passionately satisfying, character-driven finale. (Author tour) Read full book review >
NAMING THE SPIRITS by Lawrence Thornton
Released: Sept. 6, 1995

A solemn, exasperating, overplotted, yet quite moving portrayal of Latin American political repression: a sequel to the author's Imagining Argentina (1987). The disembodied voices of 12 innocent victims, massacred by Argentina's secret police, disclose the ``stories of our last days and nights...unwritten but clamoring to be told.'' These stories are juxtaposed against the interrelated stories of a wounded, traumatized girl, the only survivor of that massacre, and a cross- section of citizens whose lives she enters and variously affects. Among them are a pair of married physicians whose own daughter is one of ``the Disappeared,'' a courageous journalist whose writing stimulates public agitation for justice, a gentle teacher who cannot conceal herself in a protective world of books, and a farm couple who surreptitiously ``adopt'' another family's sons. The dead patiently watch and wait, hoping that ``mystery's daughter'' will recover her own identity and become the witness who will speak their names as well. A magical-realist substratum is contributed by glimpses of celebrated local seer Carlos Rueda (also a character in Imagining Argentina). Thornton strains readers' patience with unconvincing coincidences and writes a frustratingly uneven prose that's sometimes hauntingly limpid, sometimes stiff and labored. But the novel contains many dramatic sequences and particulars, such as the discovery of a killing field when small boys bring home a single earring and the memorable image of a bereaved father who keeps drawing pictures of his missing son in colored chalk on city sidewalks. There's little that's new here, but the material is inherently gripping, and Thornton's gift for inventive detail keeps us reading. (Author tour) Read full book review >
GHOST WOMAN by Lawrence Thornton
Released: June 1, 1992

Thornton (Imagining Argentina, 1987, Under the Gypsy Moon, 1990) expands on an ancient Indian legend—and gives it a pronounced Greek-tragedy twist—in this haunting tale of an Indian woman on the California coast who transforms the lives of all who know her. Most inhabitants of early 19th-century Santa Barbara have heard the legend of the Ghost Woman who haunts San Nicolas Island: a member of an Indian tribe removed by ship to serve the local mission ten years before, she is said to have jumped ship, drowned in the ocean, and returned to wander the island as an evil spirit. When portly, ambitious Fray Santos of the Santa Barbara mission becomes convinced that the woman may still be alive, his dreams of bringing about a miraculous conversion spur him to contract adventurous shipowner Henry Harper to take him to the island. To everyone's amazement, the Indian woman is indeed found still living in her abandoned village, wearing a dress of feathers and praying to a totemic, feather-covered miniature ship with which she believes she brought her rescuers to her shore. She is brought back in triumph to Santa Barbara, where the needs and desires of her several hosts—Fray Santos, who depends on her to pave his path to glory in Rome; Henry Harper, who lusts after her; Henry's lonely wife, Elizabeth, who befriends the woman and names her Soledad- -initiate an inexorable chain of transgressions that cuts deep into the next generation. Thornton's measured, elegiac style adds an undertow of mystery and wonder to what is, in essence, classic tragedy. Though readers may balk at a poorly disguised contrivance here and there, the tale's mythic power is worth the subterfuge. Solemn, engaging, and politically correct. Read full book review >