A jarring book that thrives on its many contradictions.

After a 20-year absence, Lina returns to Medellín in search of the authenticity of her childhood. In a city busy rebuilding itself from the ruins of conflict, what she finds is nothing as simple as atonement.

For decades, Medellín, Colombia, had one of the highest murder rates in the world. Caught at the epicenter of the conflict between FARC guerilla forces, the government-backed paramilitary, and Pablo Escobar’s narco crime wave, the city was so dangerous that citizens were effectively under siege in their own homes and under active attack in the streets. Yet this is also the city Lina called home for the first eight years of her life, until her mother’s violent death, and the place to which she returns when she finds herself adrift at the end of her Ph.D. program in London. Lina seeks out her closest childhood friend, Mattías, with a vague plan of volunteering at the community center he runs in a desperately poor neighborhood. Lina struggles to reconcile her muddled memories of her friend Matty with the intense, edgy Mattías she now meets, but even as the pressure of the childhood secret she keeps begins to overwhelm her, strange occurrences at the Anthill start to mount. Is the sharp-toothed, gray-skinned boy the children see hanging around just another of Medellín’s forgotten street children, or is he something more sinister? Where does Mattías go during his long absences, and what happened to him in the years Lina was gone? Finally, in coming back to Colombia, is Lina doing a service to her city and to the memory of her past life, or is her very presence opening the wounds that have just begun to heal? Pachico’s (The Lucky Ones, 2017) second book continues to assert the young author’s mastery of her chosen landscape. The tension between the residents of Pachico’s vibrant and tormented Medellín and the mission groups, professional volunteers, and poverty tourists is palpable and gets to the heart of one of the area’s primary dilemmas—how to build on a past which cannot be spoken and yet will not be erased. The insertion of a supernatural element in the novel is distracting, however, and too overt a metaphor for the paradoxes more skillfully and subtly asserted by Pachico’s pitch-perfect rendering of Medellín’s many voices as they seek to reconcile their pasts with their futures.

A jarring book that thrives on its many contradictions.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54589-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020


The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992



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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