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The Facades: A Novel Paperback – June 3, 2014

3.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this fascinating, complex debut novel, a famous mezzo-soprano vanishes from rehearsal, leaving behind her husband, Sven, to care for their disaffected son and search for her in the labyrinthine streets of fictional Midwestern city Trude. Though most of the plot involves Sven's existential and often humorous detective work, Trude itself is the biggest of Lundgren's many successes here. The once-great city is well rendered not only in its physical appearance (The city assembled itself, scattered lights in the old skyscrapers meandering the night sky like notes on a staff), but also in its oddities, such as the militarized library where the librarians are in a stalemate with police, a pretentious nursing home that is more difficult to gain admission to than the local college, and bathroom graffiti that reads, There is no use in killing oneself; one always does it too late. Ratcheted onto the spine of an un-put-downable mystery and brimming with entertaining dialogue and unique, well-wrought characters, this is one of those rare books that corners every mood, every emotion, and throws them into the spotlight. Lundgren's debut is a fierce, funny examination of loss, set against one of the most creative worlds in recent memory, and it's not to be missed. (Sept.) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Lundgren’s first novel is set in the fictional midwestern city of Trude. Once a thriving hub of industry, Trude is now a place where libraries are barricaded and the mall is the main attraction. Molly, the well-loved mezzo-soprano at the Trude opera and wife of the narrator, Sven Norberg, has disappeared without a trace. Norberg becomes suspicious that people around him have conspired to spirit his wife away. He searches the city streets for her, while their 16-year-old son, Kyle, joins a fundamentalist church. The novel becomes increasingly surreal as Norberg’s search grows more fervent, until, finally, Kyle shares an unexpected revelation about Molly which changes everything that came before. Lundgren incorporates thoughtful details, unexpected word choices, and striking turns of phrase that linger with the reader long after the book has ended. He has a keen sense of the mental abstraction that accompanies loss and translates it to the page with devastating accuracy. Readers with discerning taste in fiction, especially fans of literary fiction laced with mystery, will love Lundgren’s debut. --Amber Peckham --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press; Reprint edition (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1468308947
  • ISBN-13: 978-1468308945
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,787,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen T. Hopkins VINE VOICE on January 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Eric Lundgren’s debut novel, The Facades, left me scratching my head, and almost tempted to read it a second time. Protagonist Sven Norberg is a legal clerk whose wife, Molly, has disappeared. They live in a city called Trude, a place that is a shadow of its former grandeur. We learn about Trude as we follow Sven around town in her search for Molly, who is the star mezzo-soprano of the Trude opera. Lundgren’s descriptions of Trude are finely drawn and close to dystopian. I felt for Sven’s loneliness and alienation as he tries to find Molly, and watches as his son, Kyle, moves out of the family home to live with the family of the minister of a fundamentalist church. There’s fine writing in this novel that will appeal most to those readers who enjoy literary fiction and are interested in reading debut novels.

Rating: Three-star (It’s ok)
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Format: Kindle Edition
If I could give half stars, 2.5 feels more accurate for me.

There’s a moment in the book when our protagonist, Sven, is reading the memoir of the city of Trude’s most influential architect, the crazy but brilliant Klaus Bernhard. Bernhard calls his lost love, Ulli, “’the missing heart’ of his architecture.” As irony would have it, The Facades seems to suffer a similar loss.

In a book as stylish and hipsterific as this one, I can’t say I'm surprised that it's “missing heart.” Whenever a book has an obvious preoccupation, like aesthetics, other elements of storytelling seem to fall to the wayside. Ultimately, I wish the main characters and the plot did the setting justice. Sven (yes, we’re getting the inner thoughts of a person actually named Sven, living in ’Murrica) is a stereotypical suburban wet blanket, and his son Kyle is aloof and friendless. Sven is a self described paranoiac who goes out each night to search for his missing wife, Molly. Kyle, with little fanfare, becomes devoutly religious and subsequently is a mere ghostly presence in most of the book. Neither character is markedly intriguing. Molly seems like she has more of a story to tell, but it's Sven' s voice we get, a dry, mechanical kind of narration that lacks intimacy and emotional grit.

Trude is the real character in The Facades. Eric Lundgren seems to hit his stride when describing the city's history and the perpetually disgruntled architect who contributed to its infamous design. Take for instance Trude’s mall: Built as a spiral with a seemingly unsolvable, mysterious labyrinth of tall hedges at its center...
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Format: Hardcover
Eric Lundgren is a wonderful writer whose colorful prose, imagery, and word choices illustrate this intriguing story. Sven Norberg is on a quest to find out what happened to his missing wife, a popular opera singer, and walks through the strange happenings and secrets of Trude, the bizarre Midwestern city in which he dwells. What I enjoyed most are the unusual characters he meets or describes along the way - paranoid patients at an elite sanitarium who must write memoirs to prove how crazy they are, militant librarians, a prophetic cop named the Oracle, and the famed deceased architect named Bernhard whose insanity is reflected in his mysterious buildings. I also liked how Sven's downward spiral over his loss takes a desperate and sometimes creepy toll on his life as he pulls back the curtain on revelations that are more than he bargained for...

It cannot be denied that Lundgren's imagination and considerable writing skills paint a vivid and telling city that is odd, chilling, pathetic, and even humorous. The offbeat setting and characters are reminiscent of Vonnegut: madness in a strange world.

My main criticism is that Lundgren, who may have opened too many threads in the story, leaves some unresolved. There are parts in which I feel the story is sacrificed or put on hold for these indulgences. Also, it is sometimes too difficult to follow his extensive vocabulary, obscure cultural references, and even his occasionally lofty prose. Lundgren is clearly an educated mind, but his style and narrative tend to get ahead of themselves.

Still, there was the great satisfaction that the central plot is given resolve, as well as another lingering mystery (I feared they would be murky) in this textured page-turner. In many ways it was a pleasure to read. The Facades is about a man who finds himself haunted and discovers that he is not alone. For the most part, Lundgren handles his tale well as he layers and expresses it with a fresh voice.
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Format: Hardcover
Welcome to Trude, a decaying city in the Midwest whose motto is "We Tried" and where it is easier to get a driver's license than a library card. THE FACADES, which functions as an inadvertent tour guide to the city as seen by one of its more hapless residents (more on that in a moment), is not a long book, clocking in at just over 200 pages, but it's a deep one.

The novel at first seems to have a dystopian setting, but one ultimately gets the sense that it takes place very much in the here and now. Trude could be any one of a number of cities --- Detroit comes to mind, as does Cleveland, or perhaps author Eric Lundgren's own St. Louis, where he is employed as a librarian --- or all of them actually. The piece is narrated by a tragic figure named Sven Norberg, who is under-employed at a law firm under the thumb of an implicitly unlikable senior partner, who is a rogue, a letch, and probably incompetent. Norberg is marking the fourth month since his wife's disappearance. Molly, the missing wife, is Trude's preeminent opera singer, a professional who dreamed of greater things and larger venues but who ultimately has been forced to settle for being a big fish in a small and somewhat stagnant pond.

Norberg tells the story of their courtship and relationship out of sequence, a method that works well here, given the disjointed environment where the story takes place. The effect is to render THE FACADES not so much a novel as an interconnected group of short stories that seem (and I stress seem) to leave the reader free to skip around a bit. Don't. Lundgren pulls off a very difficult trick here, revealing more in the implications of what he relates than in the actual telling.
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