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THE LOVERS by Vendela Vida Kirkus Star


by Vendela Vida

Pub Date: June 22nd, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-082839-4
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

A widow vacationing in Turkey becomes slowly awakened to the tensions in the lives surrounding her and in the ones she left behind.

Like Vida’s previous book, Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name (2007), this novel concerns a woman eager to escape a host of emotional frustrations back home in the United States. But instead of Northern Lights’ chilly Lapland, this story is set on the sunny southwest coast of Turkey, where Yvonne has retreated after her husband’s death in a car accident; there, she intends to catch up with her daughter, a recovering addict, and her well-adjusted son. But the narrative deals with Yvonne in isolation, and again Vida shows she’s supremely talented at tracing the drifts of memory and emotion that course through a person. The small town where she’s rented a house is near where she and her late husband spent their honeymoon some three decades earlier, and it takes little to get her thinking about her past as a wife and mother. The rented house also affects her imagination. Evidence of the owner’s sex life is poorly hidden in the rooms, and when his estranged wife visits, Yvonne gets further clued into the emotional and sexual tug of war she’s unwittingly stepped into. Though it briefly seems that the novel might take a more sensual turn (the book appears to take its title from Marguerite Duras’ The Lover, Yvonne’s beach reading), the story soon becomes more complicated. The brief friendships Yvonne strikes up with shop owners, fellow tourists and a young boy on the beach all question how useful it is to try and shed our concerns by pursuing a change of scenery, and Vida’s clear, simple prose exposes how Yvonne’s feelings of loss emerge despite her best efforts. A plot turn following the boy’s disappearance intensifies the emotional pitch, leading to Yvonne’s subtle but powerful revelation about the role she’s played in others’ lives.

An elegant consideration of how death and distance tightens human connections—a big theme that Vida addresses with sure-footedness and charm.