The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel
Published by Unbridled Books
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Gavin Sasaki is enjoying his career as journalist in New York City when he makes a decision that has the direct result in him being fired from his job. With no income and little chance of finding a job in the wake of the economic collapse of 2008, Gavin heads back to his hometown of Sebastian, Florida, where his sister Eilo, a real estate broker specializing in foreclosed properties, offers him a job. There is another reason that Gavin is inspired to go back to Florida – Eilo has shown him a picture of a ten-year-old girl who might be homeless, and who looks exactly like Gavin and has the same last name as his high school girlfriend, Anna. When Gavin arrives in Sebastian, he immediately begins an investigation into what really happened to Anna ten years ago when, after high school, Gavin never heard from her again. He revisits the old friends that made up the Lola Quartet, a jazz quartet that was basically his life in high school, in the hopes of uncovering the mystery that is Anna and this little girl who Gavin is absolutely sure is the daughter he has never met.
The Lola Quartet is an absolutely beautiful, dare I say brilliant, novel that I loved tremendously. I had never read anything by Emily St. John Mandel before but now I see what people have been raving about – her writing is gorgeous, her characters are realistically flawed to perfection, and this story was constructed so tightly, with so many layers, that I couldn’t help constantly turning pages. It is truly a spectacular novel.
Gavin is the kind of character that is difficult to like, but impossible not to sympathize with. He has made such a mess of his life, and is frustratingly naive about so many things. Once the reader begins to really understand the many truths of this story, it is hard to understand how Gavin could NOT have known these things, could not have seen what should have been obvious. But at the same time, the reader can’t help but feel sorry for him as he realizes just how naive he’s been all those years. He had so very many missed opportunities – everything would have been different in his life if he would have just opened his eyes back in high school. This is a difficult thing for me to explain without spoilers, but let me just say that Mandel did a tremendous job creating this character that is both incredibly flawed and yet one that the reader still wants to root for throughout the novel.
There is so much to love about The Lola Quartet. Unfortunately, I don’t know what else to say without spoiling the whole thing. The writing is delicious. The plot is extremely compelling and seriously twisty. These characters will creep into your heart and stay there. Just read the darned thing already.