Schroder by Amity Gaige
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This novel opens in a familiar way, "What follows is a record of where Meadow and I have been since our disappearance." For anyone who has read Lolita, the parallels (between this "confession," between these characters -- Humbert Humbert and Erik Schroder, between the two kidnappings) are obvious. However, Schroder is not a pedophile, but a desperate father who has abducted his own daughter. He is also a liar. His entire life a fiction. The novel, written in the epistolary form to his ex-wife, Laura, slowly unravels the elaborate construct of his life.
There was so much I loved about this novel. I think that Gaige has done an incredible job with the unreliable narrator. I found myself both captivated and disturbed by him. I longed to trust him, only to have that trust undermined. The writing is gorgeous, and the scenes vivid.
Shroder's "research" on pausology (or the power and nature of pauses and silence) was interesting, but I wonder if it might have resonated more near the end of the novel. (I kept waiting for his research to somehow come to fruition...but it didn't, for me anyway.)
As a native Vermonter, I would be remiss if I didn't point out a couple of glitches. 1. There are no billboards in Vermont. 2. The depiction of the "public academy" in St. Johnsbury (and the image of the bedraggled parents waiting to pick up their children) rang false. St. Johnsbury Academy is a private high school, with a huge population of dorm students, and I couldn't understand why a) parents of teens would be picking them up from school, this presumes the parents are not working b) there were so many "visibly pregnant" mothers...really? Women with teenage kids? Anyway...probably only fellow Vermonters would take issue with this.
I also wonder (and hoping someone might chime in here) about the shift from the epistolary form of the novel to a second person near the end (where Schroder appears to be speaking to himself)...and then the several pages of what seems to be an apology (I let you down.) Because of the earlier shift in who "you" is, I didn't know whether to read this as directed toward Laura or toward himself...or perhaps, this is intentional. Regardless, it was the only moment (other than the two moments mentioned above) where I felt pulled away from the fictional dream.
I definitely recommend this book. I really, really enjoyed it.