From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Winner of France's Prix Femina and shortlisted for the Orange Prize, Huston's 12th novel captures four generations of a family and examines the decades-long fallout of a dark family secret. The novel proceeds in reverse chronological order from 2004 to 1944 and begins with six-year-old Sol, who is sheltered and coddled by his mother as he immerses himself in all the perversities the Internet can offer. After surgery to remove Sol's congenital birthmark turns out poorly, the extended family takes a trip to great-grandmother Erra's childhood home in Munich. A turbulent history underlies the visit, and after Sol witnesses a tussle between his great-grandmother and great-aunt, the novel skips backwards in time through the childhood of Sol's father, Randall; grandmother Sadie; and finally Erra. Huston's brilliance is in how she gradually lets the reader in on the secret and draws out the revelation so carefully that by the time the reader arrives at the heart of the matter in Munich 1944, the discovery hits with blunt force. Huston masterfully links the 20th century's misery to 21st-century discomfort in razor-sharp portraits of children as they lose their innocence. (Oct.)
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*Starred Review* Winner of France’s Prix Femina and short-listed for the Orange Prize, Huston’s riveting novel traces the origins of one family’s tragic secret through four generations, beginning in California in 2004 and winding backward in time to Germany during World War II. Told in four sections, each narrated by a child, the story begins with the gifted Sol, whose hyperactive prose conveys both his acute intelligence and his neurotic behavior. Overprotected by his mother, he’s not quite sure how to process what he sees and feels, specifically the fraught relationship between his father, Randall, and his grandmother, Sadie, which stands in such stark contrast to the warmth and affection that flow between his father and his great-grandmother, Erra. A family trip to Erra’s childhood home in Munich reveals more of the puzzle as Erra, a famed singer with a vibrant personality, becomes more and more withdrawn as she approaches her destination. Each succeeding section, narrated in turn by Randall, Sadie, and Erra, brings the reader closer to the lie that has so warped the family dynamics and put in place the dysfunctional emotional patterns that will haunt them for years. Huston’s powerful novel combines the pacing of a thriller with the emotional intricacies that are the hallmark of the best family stories. --Joanne Wilkinson