FICTION

The Sunken Cathedral

Scribner. Jun. 2015. 208p. ISBN 9781476799322. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781476799377. F
COPY ISBN
OrangeReviewStarSimone and Marie, two elderly widows in New York City, sign up for an art class to complete an unfinished painting by Simone's husband, while Elizabeth, a tenant in Marie's brownstone, becomes emotionally paralyzed by an assignment at her son's school meant to share insights into the students' families. Reading this hypnotic novel by Walbert, a National Book Award nominee for Our Kind, feels like falling down a rabbit hole of linked stories, with connections that resemble a trail of literary hyperlinks. In a postmodern quirk, effectively employed here, the novel contains numerous footnotes, which gradually take up more and more of the page. By design, the subtext overwhelms at times, the footnotes revealing the often painful undercurrents that lie just beneath the surface of the story. There are apocalyptic overtones, with themes of drowning, climate change, and an impending sense of doom. Though the novel seems to be set in the present, it feels more menacing than our current world, with sudden, dangerous storms and terrorism drills in school.
VERDICT An unconventional and unsettling novel with vivid imagery and passages of pure poetry. [See Prepub Alert, 12/8/14.]

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER?

We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing

ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER?