Bonita Avenue

Hogarth: Crown. Jan. 2015. 544p. tr. from Dutch by Jonathan Reeder. ISBN 9780553417852. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780553417869. F
OrangeReviewStarSiem Sigerius is a first-class judoka, a genius mathematician, a jazz aficionado, and head of Tubantia University. Life is good in the spacious farmhouse he shares with his furniture-maker wife, Tineke, and her two teenage daughters, Joni and Janis, until an explosion at a fireworks factory brings to light secrets that send Siem and those around him on a hellish descent. Siem discovers the sex website of Joni and her photographer boyfriend, Aaron, under particularly ignoble circumstances, and the reemergence of convicted murderer Wilbert, Siem's son from a previous marriage, doesn't bode well for anyone. Guilt and fear rule the decisions the characters make, sending each further down the darkest of paths, as the narrative spins from the Netherlands to Los Angeles and Berkeley, CA.
VERDICT Published in Buwalda's native Holland in 2010, this award-winning debut novel is flat-out extraordinary. The rich layer of detail would be impressive when applied to one topic, but Buwalda creates multiple complex worlds around vastly different subjects: the porn industry, mathematics, music, and judo, among others. An outstanding literary suspense story that will appeal to a wide range of readers. [See Prepub Alert, 7/14/14.]
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