With a plot that encompasses war in the Middle East, economic recession and the perils of the publishing industry, a contemporary vitality distinguishes the latest from the veteran author.
In many respects this novel bears the thematic imprint of Auster (Invisible, 2009, etc.)—chance, coincidence and “the imponderables of fate, the strangeness of life, the what-ifs and might-have-beens.” Yet the literary gamesmanship of his metafictional narratives is less evident here, as the critical challenges of these times leave both the characters and the author with more at stake. The plot pivots around Miles Heller, son of an independent publisher and a well-known actress who divorced early in his childhood. After his stepbrother suffers a fatal accident, Miles can’t shake the guilt he feels over his possible complicity and the suspicions of his stepmother, so he abandons his studies, cutting all ties with his family. A chance romance with a much younger girl returns him to New York, where he finds shelter in an abandoned building that has become something of an artist’s colony. The plot unfolds from various perspectives, amid insecurities both economic and psychological, as details from the mid-1940s film The Best Years of Our Life provide cinematic counterpoint. Though one character muses that “the dark time will soon be over, and all will be forgiven,” the novel’s tragic foreshadowing doesn’t promise a happily-ever-after ending.
Sure to please Auster fans and likely to attract new readers as well.