Iris Greenfeder, ABD (All But Dissertation), feels the “buts” are taking over her life: all but published, all but a professor, all but married. Yet the sudden impulse to write a story about her mother, Katherine Morrissey, leads to a shot at literary success. The piece recounts an eerie Irish fairy tale her mother used to tell her at bedtime—and nestled inside it is the sad story of her death. It captures the attention of her mother’s former literary agent, who is convinced that Katherine wrote one final manuscript before her strange, untimely end in a fire thirty years ago. So Iris goes back to the remote Hotel Equinox in the Catskills, the place where she grew up, to write her mother’s biography and search for the missing manuscript—and there she unravels a haunting mystery, one that holds more secrets than she ever expected. . . .
An aspiring writer delves into the long-buried mystery of her novelist mother's death in this silky-smooth novel by the author of The Lake of Dead Languages. Water, from Iris Greenfeder's perspective, is the Hudson River. She has a view of it from her five-story walkup in New York City's westernmost Greenwich Village, and it shimmers in the distance from the Equinox, the Catskills hotel where Iris grew up. Her father, Ben, was the manager at the Equinox; her mother, Kay, a former maid, wrote two fantastical novels there. Driving the plot is the not-so-simple question: did Kay write a third novel, and is it hidden at the Equinox? Back at the hotel for the summer, Iris plans to write the story of her mother's life and search for the missing manuscript. As she attempts to solve the mystery, she is abetted and thwarted by a large cast of characters, including her mother's famous literary agent, the mega-millionaire owner of a hotel chain, the daughter of a famous suicidal poet, an all-knowing gardener and the delicious Aidan Barry, whom Iris meets while he's still in prison. The novel's first-person, present-tense narrative fosters intimacy, though it somewhat undercuts suspense. More effective is the use Goodman makes of the Irish myth of the selkie half-seal, half-woman as told by Iris's mother. Mystery, folklore, a thoroughly modern romance, a strong sense of place and a winning combination of erudition and accessibility make this second novel a treat.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Great Read - Recommend it
I really enjoyed this book and found it to be an easy and fun read. There are some dark and quirky characters, secrets and misery for Iris as she tries to find answers to the mysterious death of her mother. Prior to her death, her mother had written a trilogy of fantasy books based on old folklore but only 2 had been published. Iris is convinced that there is a 3rd novel somewhere and returns to the hotel in which she and her mother lived so she can write a memoir honoring her mother and look for the hopefully, missing 3rd novel.
I liked the way that the author has woven in the folklore of her mother’s fairy tales and books into the theme and Iris’s journey. I enjoyed the writing. What I don’t like about many books of mystery and a long lost forgotten story is that they “try” to weave in modern day love stories into the fold. This book did the same thing and did not do it very well in my opinion. This is what makes it a 4 start book instead of a 5 star book. I wish authors would learn to write good, naturally unfolding love stories or just leave them out, instead of tossing one in because the recipe for this genre calls for it.
Overall, a really good read and I recommend the book highly.
I haven’t read her other book so I can’t compare the two, which really should not be done in a book review for a singular book anyways.