four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
32-Jan-Feb-2008
user_rating: 
0

A-TrespassWhen NYU student Toby Dale introduces his girlfriend, Salome, to his mother, things don't go well between the two women. Chloe Dale's distrust of Salome deepens when the young Croatian woman becomes pregnant, marries Toby, and then disappears to Europe to find her mother, who she thought was dead. Throughout the novel, the young couple's romance is juxtaposed with Chloe's marriage to Brendan, a detached history professor. The Dale family's story is interwoven, in turn, with the narrative of an unidentified woman who recounts horrific memories of the Bosnian War. When Toby pursues Salome to Eastern Europe, his father follows him-and the seemingly unrelated threads of the story converge.
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. 304 pages. $25. ISBN: 0385515456

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Trespass is so remarkable in its choice of character, plot and place, so absolutely surprising in its outcome that it's wonderful not for its good intentions but for its extraordinary craft. ... As you read this mesmerizing book with its intricacies of plot, you become aware of a kind of tension, springy as a trampoline." Carolyn See

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"In creating a character who is probably not unlike many of her readers, Martin is trespassing too, leaving hints that suggest our own self-righteousness, however well intentioned, may not stand up when tested, as Chloe's won't. ... Martin's novel is the best kind of moral fiction, the kind that interrogates morality itself." Sue Halpern

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 of 5 Stars
"[T]he book transports readers from a safe world of upper-middle-class privilege to the sticky aftermath of a horrific overseas war, setting up many surprises. ... Initially propelled by a drumbeat of dread, this book morphs into something both thoughtful and magical." Cristina Rouvalis

St. Petersburg Times 4 of 5 Stars
"While Trespass starts like a thriller, it turns into a well-paced novel concerned with what it means to be an outsider, and how connections become remarkably close in the global village." Angie Drobnic Holan

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"It's a testament to Martin's skill as both storyteller and writer that her complex characters defy separation into two camps-those who accept and those who judge. Nothing in Trespass is quite as it seems, and that is precisely the point." Lee Thomas

Entertainment Weekly 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The reliably provocative Martin leaves her judgments of Salome, Chloe, and most of her other characters tantalizingly ambiguous. ... Martin forces through a couple of heavy-handed plot twists, but this is a novel you read with sharp attention, both to the important questions it asks and to the complicated answers it offers." Jennifer Reese

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The writing is sinewy and breath-stopping; Martin's fineness of perception only intensifies it. ... In the book's resolution, there's more didactic forcing and wrapping-up than the aforementioned authorial tenderness quite justifies." Richard Eder

Critical Summary

Critics hail Trespass as a "stunning" work (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), with the potential to introduce Valerie Martin (best known for her 2001 novel Mary Reilly) to a wider audience. The novel combines the drama of family relationships with larger themes of xenophobia, war, and genocide; it also juxtaposes the comfort of the American middle class with the horrors suffered by victims of ethnic cleansing in other parts of the world. Although a couple of reviewers found the plot forced at times, most praised Martin for her achievement. Brilliant writing, deftly-drawn characters, and a refusal to provide easy answers make this thought-provoking work a pleasure to read.