Chris Bohjalian’s latest novel opens with the tragic story of a murder-suicide; an abusive husband murdered his wife and then killed himself in a small town in Vermont. Secrets of Eden follows the aftermath of this tragic event through the eyes of four people close to the incident: the pastor who knew of the domestic violence, a local prosecutor who begins to suspect the husband did not kill himself, a spiritual writer who feels drawn to the tragedy, and the couples’ only daughter. Secrets of Eden is the perfect book for a cozy winter night. Bohjalian’s placid prose can be deceptive; this book is positively a page-turner.
Admirers of Nicole Krauss’s novel, History of Love,Â (and they are many, and I am one) will want to know the answer to this question: How much does her new novel, “Great House,” resemble its predecessor? The good news is: very much indeed. And the good news is also: not so very much.
In each of the short stories that nest like rooms in Nicole Krauss’s Great House looms a tremendous desk. It may have belonged to Federico GarcÃa Lorca, the great poet and dramatist who was one of thousands executed by Fascists in 1936, when the Spanish Civil War began. We know that the desk stood in Weisz’s father’s study in Budapest on a night in 1944, when the first stone shattered their window. After the war, Weisz hunts furniture looted from Jewish homes by the Nazis. He scours the world for the fragments to reassemble that study’s every element, but the desk eludes him, and he and his children live at the edges of its absence. Meanwhile, it spends a few decades in an attic in England, where a woman exhumes the memories she can’t speak except through violent stories. She gives the desk to the young Chilean-Jewish poet Daniel Varsky, who takes it to New York and passes it on (before he returns to Chile and disappears under Pinochet) to Nadia, who writes seven novels on it before Varsky’s daughter calls to claim it. Crossing decades and continents, the stories of Great House narrate feeling more than fact. Krauss’s characters inhabit “a state of perpetual regret and longing for a place we only know existed because we remember a keyhole, a tile, the way the threshold was worn under an open door,” and a desk whose multitude of drawers becomes a mausoleum of memory. –Mari Malcolm
From Publishers Weekly