Farrar. Jan. 2024. 144p. ISBN 9780374610135. $25. F
DEBUT This intriguingly complicated debut novel from poet and journalist Zarin (Orbit: Poems) follows the on-again, off-again love affair of childhood friends Caroline and Alastair as it spans four decades. During this time, each pursues a career, marriages to others, and parenthood, yet when winter arrives with its bone-chilling temperatures and obstructing snow, their thoughts return to each other. Or do they? The narrative is as occluded as the road to the home in Maine where they sometimes meet. The omniscient narrator gives the impression of being directly over Caroline’s shoulder, privy to her every musing, then suddenly breaks the fourth wall with a disconcerting reference to an anonymous “you,” perhaps referring to an unnamed character or possibly the audience, as if speaking during a theatrical production. All may not become clear, but as the novel rambles back and forth in time, Zarin’s mesmerizing voice (could anyone else dedicate a full page to the sensuous nature of the black rotary telephone?) ensnares the imagination to the point where readers will be happy to imagine the plot that suits them best.
VERDICT This highly original, exceedingly complex novel might frustrate bibliophiles who prefer a linear storyline but will thrill those who revel in intoxicating language.
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