(cross-posted from Lou Reads)
Jason Sanderson is a very sad man. He has a sad job (repo man). His family life is sad-- first wife and only child are both dead. His current home life is sad-- he's married to a woman who neither understands him (keeps dragging him to new age-y couples groups) nor his loss (stages a horribly gauche and insensitive sort of grief intervention on the 10th anniversary of the death of the son-- perhaps the most brilliantly written and upsetting scene in the book).
Lory Llewellyn is a very sad woman. She has a sad job (accountant for her skeezy step dad's eponymous hotel). Her family life is sad-- mom ran away and stepdad is, as I said, skeezy, and an alcoholic. Her current home life is sad-- almost ten years ago her lover died in a helicopter crash and she's never recovered. She's a cutter. She's reclusive.
The parallel stories of these two depressed and depressing folk who share their love and loss of Sam Sanderson, Jason's son and Lory's lover, run in elegant and poetic prose until they converge (perhaps inevitably, but somehow the convenience is tempered by how poetic the whole book is). Infused with and often critical of both quack spirituality and the "real" deal, MOTEL OF THE MYSTERIES is an exploration of grief, of family, of dependancy.
This is a sad book. It will make you hurt. But the writing is so extraordinarily good that you'll enjoy that pain. This is McElmurray's second novel. The first, STRANGE BIRDS IN THE TREE OF HEAVEN, was also a gorgeously crafted book, but it was a little harder to follow, a little more abstract. MOTEL has been very well received. One blogger named it her novel of the year.
McElmurray was born and raised in Kentucky. Her book is published by the local Sarabande Books as part of the Linda Bruckheimer (who I keep confusing with Linda Wurthhiemer) Series in KY Literature (click here) -- which I'd never heard of until I came across this book.
And she's reading tonight (with Sean Hill and Elizabeth Bradfield) at 7:30pm at the Frankfort Avenue Carmichael's. Check it out and pick up the book.