Monday, June 22, 2020

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

I picked up this book as quickly as I could because of Station Eleven. I loved that book. This one was a good read, but not as clearly formed in my opinion as the author's previous. The flow in The Glass Hotel is a bit awkward. I liked that, but I feel it could make the book hard to read.

The narrative moves forward in time, but you're never really sure who the main character is. Flashbacks are minor, and fill in some gaps, but again, you're not always sure where to focus. My bet is that the main character is Vincent, a young woman who touches every other life in the story. Whether she's a sister, girlfriend, or bartender, she's there for at least a moment. It's hard though to say definitively sine the characters are like ping pong balls in a lottery machine. They're bouncing all over the place, but they bump into each other before the machine burps out the winning numbers. Vincent is the ball that bumps into all the others. She's an interesting woman, who seems to accept her position as it comes until finally becoming so disillusioned that she moves her life off land completely. 

The other thing in the book that touches all the characters is risk. It could also be the main character in all honesty. The risk manifests primarily in the form of an investment opportunity. You have to decide whether to take the risk or not, to benefit it or not. Even those standing close to those confronted with the risk are impacted. It has a heavy influence, and is a key driver of the trajectories for the characters in the book. Tied into this component is a commentary on human connections, and how much time we waste making the wrong ones. It's only after the risk is eliminated that many characters seem to find out who their friends really are, who they should love.

There are other complicated elements in this book. A quick touch on drugs, on ethics, on life lived on a secluded Canadian island. Like I said, its form feels loose because it's so packed. I would definitely recommend giving this author a try, but start with Station Eleven. This book is more experimental to me in its flow. I enjoyed the art of it, and the complexities, but it might not be for everyone.

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