MicroReview: Last Night in Montreal
Last Night in Montreal is the debut novel of Emily St. John Mandel, one of several great novelists I’ve met so far on Twitter (and if that isn’t a good enough reason to “tweet,” I don’t know what is!). Mandel’s cast of tragic characters are so unusual, they must be real: Lilia, who’s been disappearing her whole life and doesn’t know the truth about why she wishes to “remain vanishing”; Eli, who’s been working on his thesis on dying languages for so long he’s lost all passion; and Michaela, who long ago gave up on her father, the detective obsessed with solving Lilia’s disappearance case. The thematic image of Icarus flying too near the sun is carried through with originality and thoughtfulness, hinting at both big dreams and the fleeting moments that may turn out to define our lives. Each character in this story is flying solo, and in the end will either soar to a new vista or plunge into the depths. Excellent pacing keeps the reader turning “just one more page,” shifting primarily between Eli’s present and Lilia’s past. The conclusion is unpredictable and messy, but not altogether unhappy. A great pick for thoughtful book clubs.