Companion Piece

Pantheon. May 2022. 240p. ISBN 9780593316375. $28. F
Two-time Man Booker short-listed Smith follows up her distinctive “Seasonal Quartet” with a timely new offering. Out of the blue, Sandy Gray receives a phone call from Martina Pelf, an old college acquaintance. They had previously met only once, years earlier, when Martina sought Sandy’s help with a difficult poetry assignment. Now an assistant museum curator, Martina recently flew home with a medieval artifact known as the Boothby Lock. Upon arrival, she was detained without explanation for many hours in a locked room, where she heard a disembodied voice say, “Curlew or curfew. You choose.” Already stressed out over pandemic restrictions, her father’s hospitalization, and the care of his dog, Sandy offers what little assistance she can. This brief interaction leads the Pelf daughters to barge their way into Sandy’s home in search of the missing Martina. Did any of this actually happen or might it all have been a COVID hallucination?
VERDICT As she demonstrated so strikingly in her seasonal quartet, Smith keeps her finger on the pulse of our chaotic times. It’s no surprise that she would take on the current pandemic (with a nod to an earlier one) and handle it, as usual, with aplomb.
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