Title: The Lola Quartet
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Genre: Literary Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5
Gavin Sasaki is a journalist living in New York City when he receives a shocking picture from his sister, Eilo, who is a real estate agent in their hometown of Sebastian, Florida. Eilo sends Gavin a picture of a young girl who looks exactly like she did at that age. Both Eilo and Gavin have to ask themselves if this girl could be the daughter of Gavin’s high school girlfriend Anna who mysteriously disappeared and may have been pregnant at the time. Gavin’s search for answers becomes all-consuming, as he finds himself unable to let go of the past.
Emily St. John Mandel’s third novel continues her trademark: literary fiction combined with an enticing mystery, driving the narrative forward as the reader absorbs Mandel’s beautiful writing. Once again, her prose is stunning as she takes the reader on the twists and turns of her story. Readers will want to fall into her lush writing and will be inspired by her vivid descriptions. It would be difficult to praise Mandel’s writing highly enough.
The story of The Lola Quartet is confusing, at first. It takes some time to get to know the large cast of characters and to fully understand what is happening. The novel also jumps around quite a bit, making it difficult at times to keep everything straight. But slowly, the book comes together, combining all of its narrative threads into one overarching detective story. This sense of discovery is one of the main delights of the novel; at the beginning, the reader doesn’t even know what the mystery is, much less how it fits into the overall narrative. It’s wonderful to watch all the disparate pieces across time and geography fall into place.
Gavin is an interesting character, if a depressing one. His desperation is palpable from the first pages of the novel; he doesn’t know what he’s doing or why, but what he does know is that something has to change. Indeed, the entire novel has a bleak, noir tone. It makes for fascinating reading, but doesn’t offer much room for hope or optimism. If you’re looking to be cheered up by your read, you may want to steer clear, but for those that enjoy the occasional dark novel, The Lola Quartet is a solid choice.
In the end, The Lola Quartet is a provocative novel that will leave the reader thinking. Gavin’s actions will have readers wondering what they might do in similar situations, and as a result, this novel would make a great discussion piece for book clubs. Mandel’s has proven herself a force to be reckoned with in the literary world with her first two novels, and The Lola Quartet lives up to the promise she’s shown thus far.
Other books by Emily St. John Mandel: