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The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel
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The Lola Quartet

by Emily St. John Mandel

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1322691,104 (3.58)21
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    Follow Her Home by Steph Cha (sduff222)
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    Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel (LynnB)
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    Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon (baystateRA)
    baystateRA: Similar tone of underlying tension in tangentially connected stories. Both excellent!
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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.

Quotes

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 |
The title of The Lola Quartet references a musical group in an arts-oriented high school in the small town of Sebastian, Florida. The novel opens in 2009 about 10 years after the quartet has graduated and gone their separate ways, only to be inextricably linked back in Sebastian.

The novel unfolds as a mystery through flashbacks and investigations with a murky Florida-noir atmosphere. Sebastian is a real place in east-central Florida, but the novel seems to put it much closer to the Everglades with invasive boas and iguanas arising out of the swamps. But the drugs, the real estate foreclosures, and the danger hanging over a general apathy ring true. I was riveted, but never truly moved. ( )
1 vote janeajones | May 29, 2013 |
I liked the book in the beginning, but I was not drawn into the plot. I did not sympathize with any of the characters. In the beginning, I confused a couple of the members of the Lola Quartet and had to reread. They were a bunch of losers despite being talented musicians. Not a success story in the bunch.
I won't spoil the ending, but it did not redeem the rest of the book.
  honkcronk | May 28, 2013 |
The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel is another of those novels I picked up because something about the title and the cover (there I go again, initially judging a book by its cover) intrigued me. It turned out to be a pleasure to read - a well-paced mystery exploring all those complicated issues surrounding the juxtaposition of who we are compared to who we thought we'd become.

The novel is named for a high school jazz quartet consisting of most of the novel's central characters, who are pulled back together years later by a dangerous coincidence. Gavin Sasaki is a fedora-sporting, noir-loving, soon-to-be disgraced journalist on an assignment in his Florida home town when his sister informs him that she has come across a young girl who looked exactly like she did when she was that age. They suddenly both wonder what became of Anna, his high school girl friend, who seemed to vanish after his senior year of high school, right before he moved to New York. The picture his sister takes of the eerily familiar-looking child leads to an unforeseeable chain of events as the mystery slowly unravels.

We spend a little time with each of the main characters: the members of the original quartet, and Anna. The story also shifts between past and present, giving us glimpses into how each came to be living a life so far from their youthful, hopeful renderings of the future.
He stopped halfway to look up at the sky. He'd been reading about constelations recently, and had fallen particularly in love with the North Star. It always took him some time to find it in the haze of the streetlight, but there it was. True north, the direction of his second life, New York. He felt in those days that he was always on the edge of something, always waiting, his life about to begin. Everyone seems to be in some state of flux - and none of their lives have turned out remotely as they'd imagined. Their self-imposed isolation and loneliness doggs them all in varying ways, but they also manage to find solutions to their stases - although whether or not they are good solutions is up for debate. Nevertheless, the novel manages to end on a hopeful note.

I also had the good fortune to meet the adorable Ms. Mandel yesterday evening at Left Bank Books, one of my favorite local bookstores! It was not the largest turnout, but the four of us managed to have a nice time sitting in a circle, chatting about the novel, writing, and musing about life in general. Meet the author events always seem to have a certain level of awkwardness (or, perhaps it's just me that's awkward!), but this one felt more intimate, like a new book club getting off the ground. At any rate, I highly recommend both reading The Lola Quartet and meeting the warm and unassuming Emily St. John Mandel if you get the chance. I've already picked up a copy of her second novel, The Singer's Gun, and hope it won't remain in my substantial TBR pile for too long.

*I originally received this novel from NetGalley & Unbridled Books in exchange for my review, but have since bought a hard copy. ( )
  zeteticat | Apr 2, 2013 |
This was a quick read, but didn't really move me. The characters, setting and story were all fairly distinct and memorable, but for me that little spark of magic was missing and in the end, I didn't care all that much what happened. ( )
  anneearney | Mar 31, 2013 |
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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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To Kevin
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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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