Strange Hotel

Farrar. May 2020. 160p. ISBN 9780374270629. $25. F
An anonymous middle-aged woman from someplace undisclosed travels the world to stay in hotels. Though cultured and possessing a rigorous intellect, this traveler does not seem interested in sightseeing. Instead, she spends much of her time in her rented room, meticulously observing and describing to herself the emotional, mental, and physical sensations she experiences. She also absorbs the details of each room, noting the locations of thermostats and light switches. Occasionally, she drinks in the hotel bar and meets a man, experiences that also undergo keen analysis. Despite the intellectual control she exerts during her hotel stays, memory inevitably intrudes upon her thoughts, calling into question the very nature of her travels. Is she running from something or someone? Is she on a quest? Answers remain elusive, though a moment of humiliating indiscretion may disrupt the traveler’s intentionality in ways that might liberate her.
VERDICT Thematically and stylistically, McBride’s third novel boldly departs from previous work, especially her stunning debut, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing. McBride narrates this story of a mature woman in a considered, crafted voice that suggests language can be both subterfuge and cover. [See Prepub Alert, 11/4/19.]
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