A lyrical, and lyric-filled, portrait of a family in love and sorrow.
This whimsical, bittersweet debut novel recalls the work of filmmaker Wes Anderson, both in subject (a complicated, tightknit family full of smart, worried people) and in style (full of quirky, impossible-to-ignore formal choices). Reilly’s central pair of sensitive, bohemian New Yorkers are aspiring actress Mathilde Spicer and record-store owner Claudio Simone, who meet in 1988 at a vodka-soaked party given by an NYU undergraduate. Also introduced in the opening section of the book are Mathilde’s gay younger brother and Claudio’s mentally ill sister—each of whom remains within the cocoon of family the couple spins as they move through adulthood. In the second, much longer, portion of the book, which follows the family to the year 2016 and beyond, the focus is on the couple’s daughters, three Salinger-esque siblings: supersmart Natasha, poetic Lucy, and Carly, adopted from China. The reader is given access to each of their Hearts as their tragedy slowly unfolds, as do the borderline-twee affectations of the prose. The word Heart is capitalized every time it's used, even in the middle of a word, like sweetHeart. The word god is lowercased, even if it’s the first word in the sentence. A car is said to be “hindering” in front of a building; a woman with many children gets their names “whisked up,” someone’s hair color is “blanched” blond. Several of Lucy’s poems are included, as is a pseudo-index (with lots of page references for the entries for Heart and god, but none for “doctors apologizing”). From its title to its chapter names to the characters' interior monologues, the book is drenched in song lyrics, predominantly Beatles, but extending all the way to Badfinger. At one point, to answer the question “What can you do?,” Claudio considers lyrics by Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Bob Seger, Sam and Dave, Bob Dylan, and the Monkees, all in one paragraph.
Occasional eye-rolls aside, there is something iridescent about this novel.