Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Pub. Date: May 1, 2012
I hadn't read anything by this author before but had heard good things, so I was excited when I had the opportunity to read Emily St. John Mandel's latest... especially when I realized it takes place mostly in Sebastian, Florida. I grew up in southern central Florida and spent time as a kid at Sebastian, specifically Sebastian Inlet. And I rarely see anywhere around here used as a location in a novel.
The Lola Quartet tells the story of four high school friends who used to be part of a jazz quartet. It takes place mostly ten years after high school, though there are various flashbacks that provide a back story for the characters. Though the story is told through different viewpoints, the main character is Gavin Sasaki who has to return to Sebastian to live with his sister after being fired from his job as a "newspaperman" in New York City. In the beginning he finds out from his sister that there is a little girl in the neighborhood who looks just like him which, of course, makes sense because rumors were his high school girlfriend was pregnant before she disappeared right after high school. This leads to his searching for the girl and her mother, but some secrets and drama involving other members of his high school jazz quartet get in the way.
There was a lot of focus on how Gavin feels like he's living in the wrong decade; he wears a coat and a fedora and has always wanted to be a newspaperman or a private detective. Since his job as a newspaperman falls through, he readily takes on the role of private detective in searching for his high school girlfriend and possible daughter. This book supposedly has some noir elements in it as a result, but because I don't fully understand the concept of noir I can't really tell if that is accurate or not. I can say there was mild mystery and crime involved, but it wasn't intense or gritty in any way. Because of that I thought the story was really about the characters and where they all ended up ten years later.
This leads to something that confused me... I don't recall being given a time frame for this book, but it seemed to take place in present day. And since I'm about ten years out from high school, (2001!), the characters were about my age. And that's where it didn't make sense, because if it were truly present day most of this story wouldn't have been plausible. Nowadays it's almost impossible to lose touch with people; I know all about everyone I went to high school with because of social networking. So being unable to find people, being surprised at what people are up to after all these years.. those things wouldn't happen.
Overall, I wasn't blown away by the story or the characters, but it did keep my interest well enough to read fairly quickly. I do wish the sense of place had been a little more present.. it touched on the issue of wildlife in Florida and the creeping of it toward the suburbs as a result of hurricanes, but then that didn't go anywhere. This was an okay read and did provide me some recommendations for jazz musicians and history which has been a recent interest of mine.