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FERVOR by Toby Lloyd Kirkus Star


by Toby Lloyd

Pub Date: March 19th, 2024
ISBN: 9781668033333
Publisher: Avid Reader Press

When a North London girl returns after several days missing, her family wonders if she’s been possessed.

Elsie Rosenthal is 13 when her grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, dies and she begins getting in trouble in school. When her class is given an assignment “to write a story about a family reunion,” Elsie turns in a violent, disturbing piece inspired by the biblical tale of Jephthah’s sacrificed daughter. Her devout (and intellectually rigorous, if not merciless) parents are brought in to speak with her teachers, for whom Elsie’s mother, Hannah, has just one question: “Was it any good?...Elsie’s story. Were you impressed?” Lloyd’s extraordinary debut novel traces the implosion of a family—each member both difficult and unique, gifted and troubled. Elsie disappears for several days, and though she returns, she doesn’t seem to be the same. Hannah concludes that Elsie has lost herself in an obsession with Kabbalah, or “black magic,” but her son, Tovyah, believes Elsie’s mental state can be attributed to their dysfunctional family dynamics. Lloyd’s narrative picks up about a decade later when Tovyah begins studying at Oxford, and events are filtered through the perspective of a classmate named Kate. In Tovyah’s view, his mother has betrayed the family—and capitalized on their suffering—by writing sensationalized memoirs in which she describes both their grandfather’s Holocaust experiences and Elsie’s breakdowns. But in Lloyd’s telling, nothing—from a straightforward accounting of events to an assignment of blame—is simple. In his explorations of religion, family, academia, and the haunting effects of the past, his writing is remarkably nuanced and, at the same time, suffused with suspense.

A tremendous debut from a strikingly talented new writer.