Unsure quite I was pre-approved to read Lucretia and the Kroons’, published in July 2012, I was however curious to read Victor Lavalle’s novella, described by Gary Shteyngart as a master of literary horror.
After reading an audio transcript of an interview between Lavalle and Amy Minton on Narrative Voice, I decided to download his book and find out what it was all about, it being good to read outside what one would ordinarily choose.
It’s an adolescent literary horror of the tame kind and might even be considered magic realism depending on how you interpret it. The world Lucretia enters can be seen as a metaphor for that which we either witness as an observer or experience as one who is mortally ill – that place somewhere between the living and the dead. Lavalle’s flourishing imagination takes two girls to a place that may or may not exist on an adventure of a zombie-ish kind.
Lucretia celebrated her 12th birthday without her best friend Sunny because she was too ill to attend. Lucretia is determined to spend time with her friend to make up for it and so arranges with much difficulty for Sunny to spend an afternoon with her, convincing her mother to leave them unsupervised for two hours.
Just before Sunny’s imminent arrival, Lucretia’s brother Louis tells her a story about the Kroons, the people who used to live two floors up and relishes warning her, as only older brothers can do, of the horrors that can happen to children. Lucretia is afraid for herself and especially for Sunny, who lives one floor up, so decides to take matters into her own hands with the intention of rescuing her friend.
The experience of reading Victor Lavalle is a little like Murakami for teenagers, unique multi-layered interpretations of reality or non-reality which require the reader to let go and read with an open mind. I found myself looking for and finding many parallel meanings, not necessarily those the author intended, but that is the magic of the book, that her entrance into this other worldly place can be interpreted in different ways. It did leave questions which a successfully written magic realism story inevitably does about what really did happen and the answer I find is always best when left to the reader’s interpretation rather than dictated by the author.
The author does offer an alternative interpretation in the final pages of the book, which really I almost prefer to ignore, because it was not required and added nothing to the story and might only serve to confuse younger readers and make it less likely to be something they could relate to.
I think this book and others like Neil Gaiman’s Coraline are interesting for young people who are drawn towards the much more imaginative, often dark, transformational kind of oeuvres. It is not what I read as a child, but it is what my daughter likes to read and create (graphic novels included) characters that are different from the norm, semi-gothic at times, avant-garde (not even sure of an apt word to describe it) and wonderful in a kind of ghoulish way, though the troubles they must overcome are no different to many others, who might read about them in a more conventional way. I think Lavalle is onto a good thing.
Note: This book was an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC), provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Curious, if you are asked to read a book by the publisher and after 40% you realize “this is not the book for me” how do you go on reading and remain objective? This book is not for me and i would find it very difficutl to review. Looking for redeeming qualities which remain obscure is not easy,,,
I’m not just reading for enjoyment, I’m interested in the different way that fiction addresses themes and caters for its readership. It fascinates me to observe the kind of things my daughter is interested in and rather than abandon it because it doesn’t do the same thing for me, I like to try and understand it and experience it a little and I do admire it.
Lavalle says some very interesting things about narrative voice, which does make me interested in his, but I’m not in the habit of reading teenage fiction or light horror. I think I could have an interesting conversation with my daughter about this book and what it means, if she were to read it – she’s not really into reading on a kindle yet 🙂
Must learn to approach a book in other ways, not only for entertainment. That will give me something new to do and learn about different writing styles. Thanks. Conversations about the books I read? I wish I had people close by to talk with, but unfotunately my friends aren’t reading my classics.
I’m not just reading for enjoyment, I’m interested in the different way that fiction addresses themes and caters for its readership.
I have a similar approach to reading 🙂 Books have more pleasures to offer than entertainment. Sometimes it takes effort or patience to find and appreciate those things, but it’s well worth it. And if nothing else, a book can at least teach you something about a genre and its readership. I never regret reading a book, even if I hated it.
Thank you for your thoughful comments Lauren, I love that about books, that they are so much more than the story, that it is as much about what we bring to the reading as what the writer offers us, which is why rereading the same book many years later can also be enlightening, as we have changed in the meantime. I hope you enjoy this one too.
This helps to explain why you are such a credible and valued reviewer.
Thank you Patrica for your kind words.
Murakami left me cold but as per usual you have made me want to read this book. And I will.
It’s a short read and definitely different, glad I read it though.
The experience of reading Victor Lavalle is a little like Murakami for teenagers, unique multi-layered interpretations of reality or non-reality which require the reader to let go and read with an open mind. I found myself looking for and finding many parallel meanings, not necessarily those the author intended, but that is the magic of the book, that her entrance into this other worldly place can be interpreted in different ways.
That sounds wonderful. I’ve only read on Murakami novel (After Dark), but the kind of experience you describe here is part of what I loved about it.
I also got an auto-approved copy of Lucretia and the Kroons, presumably because I’d already requested and received The Devil in Silver. Seems I should read it asap… Thanks for the review!