SNAKE LAKE by Jeff Greenwald

SNAKE LAKE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A journalist struggles to balance the complications of love and family in a foreign land. 

Greenwald (Scratching the Surface, 2008, etc.) recounts his experiences as a reporter in 1990s Kathmandu. After falling for a news photographer named Grace, the pair of Americans began reporting on political protests, which had broken out throughout the capital, while attempting to keep their personal problems at bay. Yet with the arrival of a letter from his depressed younger brother, the story veers from travel memoir into the psychological study of a young man wholly disconnected from his world. “Social intercourse, for Jordan, was a kind of mad experiment,” writes Greenwald, “and the human race supplied him with an ever-changing pool of subjects.” The author describes his brother as a “behaviorist Houdini,” though his bizarre behavior eventually resulted in his suicide. Two days prior to Jordan’s death, Greenwald left his girlfriend, job and Buddhist studies to support his brother in California. While the author’s interactions with Jordan are riveting, they are indicative of the author’s vacillation between narratives. More troubling is his admission that the book is “primarily a memoir, and partly a work of fiction.” This uncertainty undermines the validity of the story, causing the reader to question the author's credibility. The relationship between the brothers is often engaging, but the Nepalese backdrop feels like little more than a convenient locale. The heart of the book resides not in the political upheaval of Nepal, but rather in the emotional upheaval between two far-flung, distant brothers.

Absorbing but highly uneven.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-58243-649-4
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Counterpoint
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2010




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