A generational saga that chronicles the legacy of the Sikorskys—Jewish émigrés from Eastern Europe—across the span of four generations as they grapple with the aftermath of a dark secret in the declining grandeur of the family’s Catskills hotel.
Price’s (The Grand Tour, 2016) second novel opens in 1931 in the small town of Liberty, New York, with the news that George B. Foley—eccentric transportation tycoon—has committed suicide. As Foley died without heirs, his property is sold at auction to local Jewish innkeeper Asher Sikorsky. Asher, a fiercely proud patriarch whom bad luck seems to follow from continent to continent, manages to transform both the building and his own fortunes, and—with the help of his wife and children—renovates the vacant manor into the thriving Hotel Neversink, crown jewel of the Catskills Borscht Belt circuit. And yet the tale Price pieces together over the course of his decade-hopping chapters—narrated by indomitable hotel manager Jeanie Sikorsky; her comedian brother, Joseph; Jeanie’s earnest grandson Lenny and dissolute grandniece Alice; the taciturn hotel detective; a kleptomaniac second cousin who works as a hotel maid; and a loosely affiliated host of other Sikorskys or hangers-on—has more to do with the aftermath of the family’s success than it does with their hard-won triumphs. In 1950, when a young boy disappears on the property, the hotel’s idyll is rocked; in 1973, when 9-year-old Alice is assaulted in a basement storeroom where the missing boy’s bones come to light, its long decline is inevitable. Yet even as the remaining Sikorskys fight over whether to maintain their family’s legacy or cut their losses and thus save the family itself, there are those among them who wonder if the children who have disappeared from the towns and woods around The Neversink are victims of coincidence or part of a calculated plot to destroy the family. Part genealogy, part murder mystery, part ghost story, the book’s ambitions overwhelm its scope. The result is a powerfully wrought novel of a specifically American place and time inhabited by appealing characters who are only fuzzily sketched. A last-minute revelation resolves the book’s central mystery with unconvincing, explosive drama, and the reader is left wondering not what will happen next to the suffering Sikorskys but rather where all the careful nuance of the previous pages has gone.
A book of great ambition and promise that errs on the side of a poorly conceived plot.