Laura van den Berg's new novel, The Third Hotel, is an exquisite exploration of grief, travel, and intimacy. It's also got an extremely compelling story: Clare, an elevator sales rep, goes alone to a horror movie festival in Havana after her husband, a film scholar, dies in a car accident. A few days later, to her shock, she sees him standing in front of a museum. Thus begins a surreal, intuitive, unsettling journey through Clare's past and psyche that is my favorite book of 2018 so far. Recommended By Jill O., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"[A] future cult classic." — The New York Times Book Review
An August 2018 IndieNext Selection.
In Havana, Cuba, a widow tries to come to terms with her husband’s death — and the truth about their marriage — in Laura van den Berg’s surreal, mystifying story of psychological reflection and metaphysical mystery.
Shortly after Clare arrives in Havana, Cuba, to attend the annual Festival of New Latin American Cinema, she finds her husband, Richard, standing outside a museum. He’s wearing a white linen suit she’s never seen before, and he’s supposed to be dead. Grief-stricken and baffled, Clare tails Richard, a horror film scholar, through the newly tourist-filled streets of Havana, clocking his every move. As the distinction between reality and fantasy blurs, Clare finds grounding in memories of her childhood in Florida and of her marriage to Richard, revealing her role in his death and reappearance along the way. The Third Hotel is a propulsive, brilliantly shape-shifting novel from an inventive author at the height of her narrative powers.
"Always vivid...There's no denying [Van den Berg's] skill at rendering this material; her sentences, at their best, are extraordinarily lucid, lodging places and people indelibly in memory...Read [The Third Hotel] as the inscrutable future cult classic it probably is, and let yourself be carried along by its twisting, unsettling currents." J. Robert Lennon, The New York Times Book Review
"Wonderful, lucid, mysterious." James Wood, Conde Nast Traveler
"Beautiful and unsettling...Julio Cortázar could see himself walking the partially erased and re-inscribed streets of Van den Berg’s imagination, but in the end those streets are, without a doubt, Van den Berg’s own." Christian Kiefer, The Paris Review (Staff Pick)
"A twisty exploration of grief and perception as well as the ways in which we contribute to our own undoing." Julia Pierpont, O, the Oprah Magazine
"Laced through with sharp insights — not just on marriage and grief, but also on the pull of travel and the dynamics of horror movies — the layers of [The Third Hotel] fit together so seamlessly they're almost Escher-esque. The line between the real and the imagined is forever blurry, and the result of all that ambiguity is both moving and unsettling. Gorgeously haunting and wholly original; a novel that rewards patience." Kirkus
"Mysterious and engrossing....Toying with horror tropes and conventions, and displaying shades of authors such as Julio Cortázar, Van den Berg turns Clare’s journey into a dreamlike exploration of grief. This is a potent novel about life, death, and the afterlife." Publishers Weekly
"Brooding, often-surreal, funerally bemusing...Van den Berg's entrancing, gorgeously enigmatic tale dramatizes the narcosis of grief." Booklist
About the Author
Laura van den Berg is the author of two story collections, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us and The Isle of Youth, and the novel Find Me. She is the recipient of a Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Bard Fiction Prize, an O. Henry Award, and a MacDowell Colony fellowship. Born and raised in Florida, she lives in Cambridge, MA, with her husband and dog.
Laura van den Berg on PowellsBooks.Blog
Laura van den Berg's new novel, The Third Hotel
, is an exquisite exploration of grief, travel, and intimacy. It's also got an extremely compelling story...