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A diverting absurdist parable more shocking than memorable.

Sudden catastrophe brings bewilderment and wild swerves of direction to a troubled and troubling young widow.

Roxy Rombouts, 30 years younger than her film-producer husband, Arthur, immediately assumes the worst when she finds two policemen on her doorstep in the middle of the night, and she’s right to do so. Not only has Arthur been killed in a car accident, but so has his young female intern, and both were naked, parked on the hard shoulder. “Would the bodies be carefully separated at the site of an accident like that, or might parts of one still be in the other?” wonders Roxy, in the deadpan comic style characteristic of Dutch novelist Gerritsen (Craving, 2018, etc). Mother to 3-year-old Louise, Roxy found early fame as the author of an autobiographical novel, The Trucker’s Daughter, but moving in with Arthur when she was only 17, she “has always known that she skipped something, took a short cut to adulthood.” Now this introverted woman finds her life busily populated by babysitter Liza; Jane, Arthur’s personal assistant; and her previously estranged parents, who move in for a while. The widow also finds herself sleeping with her married undertaker, Marcel, and, later—when the women and Louise head away for a holiday—with strangers met in hotel bars. On this trip, Roxy’s care of Louise swings through indulgence, neglect, anger, and endangerment as she confronts her fears of the past and the future. Questionable parenting and bizarre behavior are hallmarks of Gerritsen’s previous novel, too, but Roxy’s story is starker and more manic, as her road trip of self-discovery spirals down into ever darker, more violent behavior before emerging into a degree of realization.

A diverting absurdist parable more shocking than memorable.

Pub Date: March 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64286-040-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: World Editions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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