Synopses & Reviews
From the acclaimed author of Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name
and The Lovers
comes a taut, spellbinding literary thriller that probes the essence and malleability of identity
In Vendela Vida's mesmerizing novel of ideas, a woman travels to Casablanca, Morocco, on mysterious business. While checking into her hotel, the woman is robbed of her wallet and passport — all of her money and identification. Though the police investigate, the woman senses an undercurrent of complicity between the hotel staff and the authorities — she knows she'll never recover her possessions. Stripped of her identity, she feels burdened by the crime yet strangely liberated by her sudden freedom to be anyone she chooses.
A chance encounter with a movie producer leads to a job posing as a stand-in for a well-known film star. The star reels her in deeper, though, and soon she's inhabiting the actress's skin off-set too — going deeper into the Casablancan night and further from herself. And so continues a strange and breathtaking journey full of unexpected turns, an adventure in which the woman finds herself moving irrevocably, thrillingly, away from the person she once was.
Told with vibrant, lush detail and a wicked sense of humor, The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty is part literary mystery, part psychological thriller — an unforgettable novel that explores free will, power, and a woman's right to choose not her past, not her present, but certainly her future. This is Vendela Vida's most assured and ambitious novel yet.
“You will tear through Vendela Vida's The Divers Clothes Lie Empty, this wry, edgy, philosophical thriller, this love child of Albert Camus and Patricia Highsmith, this sly satire of Hollywood, this entertaining journey through the vast desert of identity and regret.” Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins
“Vendela Vida has written a truly original novel, a work of art that shines with Buñuelian play and cruelty. The situation is discomfiting and addictive. You will be driven to read this novel compulsively, and then you will have the same strange sly smile that I do, now.” Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers
“Part glamorous travelogue, part slow-burn mystery, this full-bodied tale of a runaway is at once formally inventive and heartbreakingly familiar. (Its also insanely funny.)” Lena Dunham
“A chilling tale about the gradual loss of identity — a novel of doubles, invisibility and lies, poised somewhere between a fever-dream and a suspenseful thriller...Vendela Vida perfectly captures what it feels like to be unreal, especially to oneself, and grasping at roles in order to survive.” Sheila Heti, author of How Should a Person Be?
"An emotional and formally clever exploration of identity. Vida's descriptive powers and restraint help to avoid the repetitive hammering of you that bogs down most second-person novels. Hard-boiled and inventive, the book takes a bold swing at mixing genres.” Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Vendela Vida is the award-winning author of four books, including Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name and The Lovers, and a founding editor of The Believer magazine. She is also the coeditor of Always Apprentices, a collection of interviews with writers, and Confidence, or the Appearance of Confidence, a collection of interviews with musicians. As a fellow at the Sundance Labs, she developed Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name into a script, which received the Sundance Institute/Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award. Two of Vida's novels have been New York Times Notable Books of the Year, and she is the winner of the Kate Chopin Award, given to a writer whose female protagonist chooses an unconventional path. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two children, and since 2002 has served on the board of 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth.