The Morningside

Random. Mar. 2024. 304p. ISBN 9781984855503. $29. F
Obreht’s third novel (after Inland) is an enthralling story set in fictional Island City. After years of moving from place to place, Silvia and her mother join Sil’s aunt Ena in the titular apartment building and quickly join the superintendent and custodial staff. Their landing is not happenstance. They are part of a questionable repopulation program meant to bring residents back to a city that coastal flooding has nearly overtaken. Through Sil, Obreht explores how a child’s curiosity, fueled by secrets, mysteries, and superstitions that her aunt’s stories only heighten, can lead to obsession. The object of Sil’s focus is Bezi Duras, the penthouse resident, an artist who walks her dogs daily. Sil intends to discover the artist’s true identity as well as the true nature of her three canine companions. Might they be supernatural? When Mila, another new resident who befriends Sil, discovers Sil’s fascination, she doesn’t just join the adventure, she more or less takes over.
VERDICT Obreht draws upon plausible dystopian and postapocalyptic futures and strong elements from Serbian folktales, as well as magical realism. The result is a strange, almost dreamlike novel, distinctive for its memorable characters and beautiful writing.
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