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The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel

The Lola Quartet

by Emily St. John Mandel

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1632973,133 (3.58)31
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The title refers to a high-school band. On the night of their final gig, as their senior year is winding down, the trumpet-player's girlfriend disappears amid rumors of pregnancy. Ten years later, Gavin (the trumpet player), having moved to New York to pursue a career in journalism, gets an assignment to return to his Florida hometown to do a story. He meets up with his sister, who shows him a photograph she took of a 10-year old girl that looks exactly like she did at that age. The taking of that photo has set events into motion that sheds light onto semi-forgotten mysteries. Subsequently illuminated is an incredible story involving stolen drug money, broken lives, faulty memory, addiction, violence, and murder.

This is the 2nd Mandel book I have read and, once again, her characters are what carry the narrative. Believable and sympathetic, Gavin, Anna, Sasha, Daniel, and Jack - all of them grown into less than their dreams - pull you along as their relationships and intertwined stories are revealed. Gritty and real, this is a slow-burn, noir-ish tale reminiscent of a Cohen brothers film. ( )
  ScoLgo | May 19, 2015 |
2014’s Station Eleven captivated me with its story of life after a pandemic flu caused the collapse of society, and The Lola Quartet, an earlier novel by the same author, shares many of Station Eleven’s story elements, including a life during crisis theme, though here the disasters are on a smaller scale.

Gavin is unsettled by the news that he may have fathered a daughter by a troubled high school girlfriend who disappeared--so unsettled he makes mistakes that sabotage his NYC career as a reporter, though print journalism is in its death throes anyway and his paper shut down not long after he was fired. He moves back to Florida because an economic crash similar to (or the same as) the one of 2007-2008 has created a job opportunity for him with his sister, whose work involves foreclosing on homes--she has to use a punching bag to work off the stress. In his free time Gavin uses his investigative skills to try to find his old girlfriend and his daughter.

It’s a fraught enterprise, and he’s warned off it at every turn, but locating his missing daughter is not something Gavin can let go of. In the process he reconnects with the other members of his high school jazz quartet--his girlfriend’s half-sister was the drummer--but everyone’s life has changed drastically since the almost magical evening of their final concert outdoors on the back of a truck, and no one seems able or willing to help him.

As in Station Eleven there are several third person narrators, the writing is beautiful and evocative, and the story is riveting, moving, and complex. Both novels unfold while shifting back and forth in time, revealing information slowly--a technique that irritates me in some books, but author Emily St. John Mandel makes it feel artful. Though The Lola Quartet doesn’t involve the almost total disintegration of civilization, strangely it’s a darker, less hopeful tale than Station Eleven, with moral dilemmas and needless but inevitable tragedy giving it an uncompromising, maybe noirish feel. ( )
  Jaylia3 | May 12, 2015 |
This is a novel about four high school friends who went their separate ways after their jazz quartet disbanded. Years later, after Gavin's sister sees a child who looks just like him, Gavin wonders if his old high school girlfriend had a baby and didn't tell him. Compelled to find this child he believes may be in danger, and in the wake of the highly publicized self-destruction of his career, Gavin returns to his hometown in Florida. Unbeknownst to Gavin, his old friends have kept secrets from him regarding his girlfriend and the birth of her child. As Gavin tracks down the clues to uncover the truth, he inadvertently sets into motion a series of events which place his friends and the child in jeopardy. Told from multiple perspectives and different periods of time, this novel questions the strength of old friendships and past secrets, which may be best left alone.

I enjoyed this novel, primarily because the writing style I enjoyed from "Station Eleven" was also present in this earlier work from the author. It was a quick read and I enjoyed the suspense I experienced worrying for the characters' safety. However, it was also a dark novel, which was only partially balanced with the thrill of the music described throughout. I found it interesting that the author chose to focus on the music as a primary element given the focus on Shakespeare and the Traveling Symphony in "Station Eleven". In all, a good read. ( )
  voracious | Feb 18, 2015 |
After reading [b:Station Eleven|20170404|Station Eleven|Emily St. John Mandel|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1405865745s/20170404.jpg|28098716], I decided to go back and read a previous work of Emily St. John Mandel's. I wasn't expecting much, to be honest, but I was pleasantly surprised when I found this book to be, if not equally compelling, then at least as enjoyable as her newest work. The style is a bit different, this being more of a literary mystery, whereas Station Eleven was more literary-apocalyptic, or just literary, I guess. Regardless, a good book.

And that's my short and shitty review.
( )
  zenslave | Jan 13, 2015 |
The Lola Quartet was Gavin, Daniel, Jack, and Sasha, high school friends who played music together. But ten years after high school, all of them are in trouble. Sasha got addicted to gambling, Jack dropped out of music school and lives in a haze of pills, Daniel is a cop with four kids and two ex-wives to support. As for Gavin, he went to Columbia and became a reporter like he wanted to be, but when his girlfriend leaves him after a miscarriage, he blows up his career by writing fake quotes and returns home to his sister Eilo in Florida to help her foreclose on houses.

It was at a foreclosure that Eilo saw a ten-year-old girl that looked like herself at ten, snapped a picture, and showed it to Gavin. He picks up the trail and follows it (private investigator being his second career choice, after journalist), trying to track down Sasha's half-sister Anna, who was his girlfriend in high school. But Anna disappeared after eleventh grade, amid rumors that she was pregnant.

As Gavin tries to find Anna and the girl he thinks is his daughter, the story comes together piece by piece, working from the present backward and from the past forward, usually from Gavin's perspective but also from Daniel's, Anna's, Sasha's, Jack's, and Jack's college roommate, Liam Deval. It ranges from Florida to Utah to North Carolina to New York to Detroit as the characters pursue each other and are pursued. Gavin does find Anna, but their meeting doesn't yield the conclusion he expects.


The point was that Gavin had opened a door, cracked it just slightly, and he could see through to the disgrace and shadows on the other side. If you tell a lie it's easier to tell another. An abyss yawns suddenly at your feet. (24)

He understood, reading these stories, how easy it was to sink. (48)

He didn't know if Arthur Morelli and Liam Deval were famous in any widespread, conventional way - there were so many gradations of fame now, it was hard to tell anymore what kind of fame counted and who stood a chance of being remembered later..." (50)

Only the names of the towns varied, and the towns were like envelopes with all the contents the same. (Jack, 103)

"The truth is, we don't all turn into the men we had hoped to become." (Jack, 115)

He spent a lot of time lying on his bed listening to music on headphones, Nina Simone, Django Reinhardt, Coltrane and Parker, all the emissaries of a kingdom that was slipping away from him. (Jack, 116)

What was strange was that he felt less alone here than he had in New York. He thought it was perhaps because Karen had never occupied these rooms, therefore her absence didn't fill them. (139)

She was left with an unsettling sense that they hadn't gone anywhere, that this was only a variation on the place where they'd started. (Anna, 167)

"If someone's drowning in front of you and they say they don't want to be saved, do you take them at their word or do you pull them out of the water?" (Daniel to Gavin, 180)

He understood what it felt like to slip away from yourself and to move beyond your own control, to turn into someone you never meant to become who did things you never wanted to do... (Sasha, 208)

How many times in your life do you get to flee town? How often do you get to lose everything and start all over again? (277) ( )
  JennyArch | Jul 19, 2014 |
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"The novelty of our adventure was wearing thin, but not because our feet hurt and we were constantly blaming each other for the forgotten sunscreen. There was some other thing that we could not clearly explain. The farther we ventured, the more everything looked the same, as if each new street, park, or shopping mall was simply another version of our own, made from the same giant assembly kit. Only the names were different." Shaun Tan, Tales from Outer Suburbia
"One of these mornings/
You're going to rise up singing/
Then you'll spread your wings/
And you'll take to the sky/
But until that morning/
There's nothing can harm you..."
George Gershwin, Summertime
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Anna had fallen into a routine, or as much of a routine as a seventeen-year-old can reasonably fall into when she's transient and living in hiding with an infant. She was staying at her sister's friend's house in a small town in Virginia.
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Gavin Sasaki's a promising young journalist in New York City, until he's fired in disgrace following a series of unforgivable lapses in his work. It's early 2009, and the world has gone dark very quickly: the economic collapse has turned an era that magazine headlines once heralded as the second gilded age into something that more closely resembles the Great Depression. The last thing Gavin wants to do is return to his hometown of Sebastian, Florida, but he's drifting toward bankruptcy and is in no position to refuse when he's offered a job by his sister, Eilo, a real estate broker who deals.… (more)

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