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Vividly detailed, a florid fantasy that suggests the miraculous potential of hope and love in the midst of perpetual war.

The fourth from Colombian Restrepo (The Dark Bride, 2002, etc.) traces an unlikely romance between a displaced man—raised in the hell of the country’s decades-long civil war—and an outsider.

The nameless narrator (presumably from the US) meets the man known as Three Sevens in the refugee shelter where she works. She is attracted to him, but he speaks only of a woman named Matilde Lina. The mysterious man, she learns, was born in 1950, in Santa Maria Bailarina, a village named after its patron saint, the Dancing Madonna. Found on the church steps, the infant had an extra toe (hence Three Sevens, after twenty-one digits), which signals something supernatural. He’s taken in by the village laundress Matilde Lina, and, after a massacre a few months later, the survivors take to the road, carrying the wooden sculpture of the Dancing Madonna with them for protection. The slow march lasts for years. “We were victims, but also executioners,” Three Sevens admits. He and his young adoptive mother are the only travelers who seem oblivious to the sufferings of hunger, fear, and cold nights. When he is 13, the two are separated during an ambush, and, putting the Madonna in his backpack, he begins a lifelong search for the only woman he has ever loved. Years later, in the oil city of Tora, he’s caught up in a riot, tear-gassed, beaten, labeled an instigator, and accused of stealing the Madonna, a valuable colonial relic. Still seeking Matilde Lina, Three Sevens finds a refugee shelter run by French nuns high in the mountains above Tora—a place on “the other side of reality.” There, the Dancing Madonna, disguised in a new mantle, is restored to dignity, and Three Sevens, after nearly fifty years, has a chance at redemption and love.

Vividly detailed, a florid fantasy that suggests the miraculous potential of hope and love in the midst of perpetual war.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-072370-X

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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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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