three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
48-Sept-Oct-2010
By: 
Vendela Vida
user_rating: 
0

A-The LoversVendela Vida is the founding coeditor of The Believer magazine and the author of the acclaimed And Now You Can Go (2003) and Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name (3.5 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2007). The Lovers is the third novel in what Vida describes as a trilogy about rage and violence.

The Story: Years ago, Yvonne and Paul honeymooned in DatÇa, Turkey. Now, almost three decades later, Paul has died, and their twin children have grown up. Filled with nostalgia and yearning, Yvonne returns to DatÇa for what she hopes will be a relaxing week. Yet instead of a beautiful seaside village, she finds a garbage-strewn, pillaged town. And instead of tranquility, she becomes haunted by memories of her struggles with her marriage and children. Then she meets a local boy, Ahmet, who eases her loneliness. But just as she starts to come to grips with her past life, it again threatens to unravel.
Ecco. 240 pages. $23.99. ISBN: 9780060828394

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Yvonne, both dignified and terrifically vulnerable, makes for a moving companion throughout this dreamy story of reawakening. ... It’s a novel that demands a movie version starring Meryl Streep." Karen Valby

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Yvonne’s story can be seen from the start as an unusual and engrossing exploration of marriage, parenthood and the accidents that can end and reconfigure lives. ... Although its ending is a little rushed (some situations feel arbitrarily abandoned), the book is a satisfying, often brilliant portrait of a woman searching for relief from things that will not, she discovers at last with something like acceptance, go away." Josh Emmons

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"The ‘widow putting her life back together’ has become a staple of women’s fiction, but it would be a mistake to think Vendela Vida’s new novel The Lovers is another ho-hum example. The plot here is almost the reverse, with Yvonne’s process closer to disintegration. ... This slim volume is remarkable for how much story it packs, testifying to the economy and skill of the writing." Maya Muir

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"In what becomes the most significant thread of the book, Yvonne befriends a lonely boy named Ahmet, paying him to gather shells for her, and their friendship raises the suspicions of some of the locals. ... Vida’s work becomes clearer and more sophisticated with every book she writes; and The Lovers is her best and most disturbing novel yet." Lauren Groff

Onion AV Club 2 of 5 Stars
"It yearns to say something new about death (and loss and travel and motherhood), but heaps on so many awkward metaphors, it becomes difficult to distinguish between what’s meant to be meaningful and what’s mere window-dressing. But like her protagonist, when something concrete threatens to appear (as when Yvonne ponders the notion of remarriage) Vida ends up ‘extinguishing the thought as she would a candle.’" Gregg LaGambina

Critical Summary

Vida’s loosely arranged trilogy on "women in crisis" ends, perhaps aptly, with The Lovers, about an older, vulnerable woman coming to grips with her husband’s death and her strained relationship with her children. Most reviewers cited Yvonne as a compelling, moving protagonist dealing with grief, betrayal, and life’s ups and downs and praised Vida’s spare, cinematic storytelling. The Onion AV Club provided the only major dissent, claiming that in its attempt at profundity, the novel instead delves into ambiguity and aimlessness. Most readers, however, will find much to enjoy in this subtle and haunting work.