“In the late winter of 2006, I returned to my home town and bought 612 acres of land on the far western edge of the county.” So begins, innocently enough, J. Robert Lennon’s gripping and brilliant new novel. Awkward, guarded, and more than a little adamant about his need for privacy, Eric Loesch sets about renovating a rundown old house in the small, upstate New York town where he spent his childhood. When he inspects the title to the property, however, he discovers that there is a plot of dense forest smack in the middle of his land that he does not own. What’s more, the name of the person it belongs to is blacked out… The answer to what—and who—might lie at the heart of Loesch’s property stands at the center of this daring and riveting novel from an author whose writing, according to Ann Patchett, “has enough electricity to light up the country.”
Set amidst the outsider worlds of present-day downtown New York, 1990s Los Angeles, and 1940s Mexico City, Like Son is the not-so-simple story of a father, a son, and the love-blindness shared between them.
Meet Frank Cruz: a post-punk, sardonic, thirty-year-old who unwittingly inherits his dead father’s legacy. Born a bouncing baby girl named Francisca to parents tangled in a doomed love affair, Frank grows up in both the poorest barrios and poshest hills of Southern California. A defiant loner, Frank leaves home at the age of eighteen for the big city, but instead is sucked back into helping his estranged and blind father navigate an untimely death. On his deathbed, Frank’s father gives him a mysterious crumbling photograph of a woman with a stunning gaze: Nahui Olin, a fierce member of the early-20th-century Mexican avant-garde who once brought tragedy upon the Cruz family.
Punctured to his core by Nahui, Frank takes her portrait and flees to New York City to start anew–this time for real. There he meets eccentric, gorgeous, and sharp-tongued Nathalie. The two fall in love, but after seven years of happy-go-lucky life together, in September 2001 the New York skyline tumbles, and Frank finds himself smack in the middle of his predestined fate.
“It is what it is. That’s her car out there and, well, that’s her right there.”
Jeremy looks at the woman again. There’s a few flies dipping in and out of the back of her skull.
“What happened to her?”
I feel a little uncomfortable. I wasn’t really planning to lay it all out like this.
“Well, I hate to say this but I killed her.”
Jeremy nods slowly. He’s starting to take this in and I’m relieved.
“Don’t ask me why. Anything I say is just gonna sound ridiculous.”
I rub my hand in my hair. I want to appear frustrated.
“Things just got out of control.”
Bob Clark owns the Self Serve in Cashtown Corners. It’s the only business there and Bob is the only resident. He’s never been comfortable around other people. Until he starts to kill them. And murder, Bob soon discovers, is magic.
People Live Still in Cashtown Corners is Bob’s account of a tragedy we all thought was senseless.
For as long as she could remember, Sarah has had a frightening nightmare. In it, she inexplicably kills her mother. After this nightmare she feels compelled to steal something. Not just anything, but some particular item which seems significant. Yet over the years she couldn’t figure out the relevance of any of these stolen items. No one knows of Sarah’s problem and she has no solution, despite reading dozens of psychology books hoping to find the answer.
Then Aunt Kat, her mother’s sister whom Sarah has never met comes to visit which begins a frustrating weekend. Her mother falls and breaks her ankle and suddenly Sarah’s nightmares begin to change to include sleepwalking. In desperation, Sarah seeks help and turns to Josie her odd but brilliant schoolmate.
Together the girls try to trace the source of Sarah’s problem. Books, the stolen items, clues in the new nightmares, all seem to lead nowhere. Even the cryptic pronouncement of a psychic referring to a “grave beside a tomb” means nothing. But finally, everything begins to fall into place. Sarah begins to discover hidden things about herself which make her wish she had never begun the search.
Few of us actually know all the things which make us who we are but Sarah’s past hid more than most.
Image credit: lindaaslund