THE LOST FATHER by Mona Simpson


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Overly long, repetitive, often irritating sequel to Simpson's bestselling first novel (Anywhere But Here, 1987), which recounted Anne Stevenson's upbringing by a pathological mother. Now Anne, reclaiming her original name of Mayan, reveals the more painful childhood trauma: her father's absence. ""Disappearing was all you had to do to become someone's god,"" she explains. Throughout childhood, Mayan trusted that her barely remembered Egyptian father would reappear and magically change her life. As a 28-year-old sometimes anorexic medical student in N.Y.C., she finally tracks him down at book's end in spite of private detectives (who, like the rest of the men in her life, cheat and never return her frantic calls) and impulsive, inconclusive, sometimes deranged journeys through the US and Egypt. Mayan eventually learns to obsess about Tiffany pearls instead of love and becomes ""more like anybody else."" It's hard to build a novel around a man no one knows, so Simpson offers a multitude of characters and flashbacks as context for Mayan's personal development: memories of her Wisconsin grandmother are sometimes touching--especially a set piece about midwestern widows in Europe; but most of the subplots (Mayan's interest in architecture, nice guys she can't relate to, a lot of whining about her poverty, intense friendships with megaconsumer Emily and Vietnamese orphan Mai linn, a sexually abused lesbian saxophonist) seem calculated and unconvincing. Mayan's obsession and emotional pitch almost always ring true, but cannot sustain this bulky, much-anticipated novel. Disappointing.

Pub Date: Feb. 3rd, 1992
ISBN: 0679733035
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Knopf