The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel

Gavin is a newspaper reporter who loses his job. Gavin is not perfect, but he does mean well. He becomes obsessed with a photo that may or may not depict his daughter—she looks a lot like Gavin’s own sister and she is supposedly the daughter of his long-lost high school girlfriend. So ten years after leaving for college, Gavin returns to his hometown in steamy, humid, perpetual summer Florida. Along the way, the reader also becomes privy to the past lives and choices of Gavin’s gaggle of high school friends, namely those belonging to the Lola Quartet, their musical group. The Lola Quartet boasts some lively characters whose subsequent choices shaped their lives and the lives of those around them in ways they could never have predicted. Jack heads out to music school but fears he’ll never have “have the music” the way truly talented musicians do. Daniel helps a friend in a desperate situation that turns into a ten-year nightmare for everyone involved. Sasha’s life fizzles due to an addiction (or a sickness—the novel neatly debates whether her particular addiction is something she can control or if it is a sickness that will always try to control her). Sasha’s little sister, though not part of the quartet, instigates the novel’s most complicated mystery and helps unwittingly unravel the lives of nearly everyone around her. Mandel’s writing is lyrical and mesmerizing and can be compared most easily to that of Kate Atkinson in her ingenious use of character-switching and time-swapping throughout the narrative. The Lola Quartet is part thriller, part mystery, and all literary fiction of the highest order.

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