The Secret of Lost Things

The Secret of Lost ThingsThe Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book much more than I did. The premise sounded so promising – a coming of age story, a lost manuscript, a large used bookstore, a Melville tie-in. I love literary stories, and there is some beautiful language here, but it wasn’t enough to make it 3 stars for me. In fact, if this hadn’t been an audiobook, it might have been a DNF. The characters were outrageously quirky – not a normal person in the bunch – and had such promise, but they were not developed enough to make me care about them. The plot ultimately went nowhere, with lots of loose ends. It didn’t really work for me as a coming of age story – did the main character grow and change during the year the book takes place? Did the lost girl find herself? Nor did it work as a literary mystery. Some of the characters were creepy, but there wasn’t much in the way of suspense.

The book might work as an exploration of lostness. I’m just not sure anything was found by the end of it. Rosemary is lost and alone when she arrives in New York City. She strikes up a friendship with Lillian, an Argentinian woman whose son was “disappeared.” At the book store, she finds another friend, Pearl, a black wanna-be opera singer transexual. And then there is Walter Geist, an albino losing his eyesight, and probably his mind. A second theme explored is obsession and its consequences. That’s where Melville and the manuscript come in. Geist seems to represent both Moby Dick and Ahab, with his obsession for both the manuscript and Rosemary. Rosemary develops a crush on Oscar, a handsome but emotionally unavailable coworker who is also obsessed with finding the manuscript. Lillian, of course, is obsessed with the need to find her son, or at least find out what happened to him. Sex and sexuality might be a third theme – the naive Rosemary, the lonely and repressed Walter Geist, the asexual Oscar, and the delightful transexual Pearl, who might be my favorite character. In her own way, she comes across as the only one who isn’t lost. She’s real and honest.

This isn’t a bad debut novel. I would read a second book about Rosemary, hoping for the further development of some of the characters, and answers to some of the loose threads. Sheridan Hay definitely has potential.

Description: Eighteen years old and completely alone, Rosemary arrives in New York from Tasmania with little other than her love of books and an eagerness to explore the city. Taking a job at a vast, chaotic emporium of used and rare books called the Arcade, she knows she has found a home. But when Rosemary reads a letter from someone seeking to “place” a lost manuscript by Herman Melville, the bookstore erupts with simmering ambitions and rivalries. Including actual correspondence by Melville, The Secret of Lost Things is at once a literary adventure and evocative portrait of a young woman making a life for herself in the city.

Dive Deeper

Dive Deeper: Journeys with Moby-DickDive Deeper: Journeys with Moby-Dick by George Cotkin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t think I need to add anything to the publisher’s description (below.) This is a marvelous book. The topics are random and varied, tied loosely to each chapter of Moby-Dick, and provide insights into Melville’s world and the themes within the novel as well as its influence on music, art, film, and literature since 1851.

Description: Herman Melville’s epic tale of obsession has all the ingredients of a first rate drama–fascinating characters in solitude and society, battles between good and evil, a thrilling chase to the death–and yet its allusions, digressions, and sheer scope can prove daunting to even the most intrepid reader. George Cotkin’s Dive Deeper provides both a guide to the novel and a record of its dazzling cultural train. It supplies easy-to-follow plot points for each of the novel’s 135 sections before taking up a salient phrase, image, or idea in each for further exploration. Through these forays, Cotkin traces the astonishing reach of the novel, sighting the White Whale in mainstream and obscure subcultures alike, from impressionist painting circles to political terrorist cells. In a lively and engaging style, Dive Deeper immerses us into the depths of Melville’s influence on the literature, film, and art of our modern world. Cotkin’s playful wit and critical precision stretch from Camus to Led Zeppelin, from Emerson to Bob Dylan, and bring to life the terrors and wonders of what is arguably America’s greatest novel.

Committed

Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with MarriageCommitted: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy Liz Gilbert’s style and humor. I found her examination of the history and culture of marriage quite fascinating. I like her candor in discussing her inner thoughts and fears. And as a 58-year-old single woman, I really appreciated her thoughts on single women, and on the value of what “aunts” give to the world. Even in the U.S. in this day and age, to marry or not isn’t always a choice. She gives voice to the marriage equality struggle of LGBT folks, and the reassurance that marriage always has been and always will be changing and evolving.

Description: At the end of her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe, a Brazilian living in Indonesia. The couple swore eternal love, but also swore (as skittish divorce survivors) never to marry. However, providence intervened in the form of a U.S. government ultimatum: get married, or Felipe could never enter America again. Told with Gilbert’s trademark humor and intelligence, this fascinating meditation on compatibility and fidelity chronicles Gilbert’s complex and sometimes frightening journey into second marriage, and will enthrall the millions of readers who made Eat, Pray, Love a number one bestseller.