ring, please.” Father Monahan turned to Jeffrey, whose gaze sent
everyone’s eyes to the back of the room. Whatever he was looking at
was not apparent, and all returned their attention to the couple.
groom stage-whispered angrily at his best man. He couldn’t be
bothered right now that his lifelong friend’s unrequited love
hadn’t shown. For god’s sake, it was his wedding. If Jeffrey
ruined it, their friendship was in question. It had been faltering
ever more as this obsession had grown.
Laila slowly opened
the heavy church door, hoping for a quiet entrance. She was late,
hadn’t been expecting to come at all. Susanna had begged her to
come. Her little sister’s wedding was a must, but she understood
that HE would be there. They agreed that no one wanted the commotion
that would ensue from her presence. Yet she desperately wished to see
her baby girl she helped raise marry the man of her dreams. The door
squeak echoed around the three-stories’ tall ceiling. Acoustics
were fantastic in here—as a singer, she was impressed. Then all
eyes turned again to the back of the room.
Halfway up, Laila’s
ex-husband Henri sat with two of their children, both of them excited
about baby sister as flower girl. Upon seeing Laila in the doorway,
with sunlight haloing her auburn hair, he stood up, snapped his
fingers for the kids to follow, and headed to the door. As he walked
down the aisle, he heard a gasp from the front, but didn’t turn to
find out from who. In his peripheral vision, he noted a tall man in
black on the left get up and head in the same direction. He did not
want to know who this guy was. Henri reached back for his children.
The sound of little feet running behind him assured him that all his
kids were coming.
At 17, David witnesses his father’s public assassination for turning state’s witness, his mother collateral damage, his life spared due to spent ammo. He spends decades piecing together evidence to determine the killer’s identity, all while living his life as an NFL quarterback for the Dolphins, a random lover of the famous dancer Sylphide (who lives across the pond from his childhood home) and her protege Emily—introduced by him, and a restaurateur. His sister parcels out relevant information on rare occasions, spending her grief-stricken adulthood playing professional tennis, fighting mental illness, and searching for her parent’s killer against her boyfriend’s pragmatic advice. As Sylphide moves in and out of David’s life, secrets come unmoored and land at his feet every so often. Roorbach has built a fine cast of complex and extraordinary characters, nuanced to the hilt, integrity intact throughout the novel, all maddeningly non-forthcoming for page-turning tension. It can be awkward to follow the timeline back and forth, and David’s discoveries can be out of sync, as when he realizes his sister’s major secret years after his parent’s demise, and then in a following flashback is explicitly told the secret by his sister herself. No opportunity is missed to reference Emily as “the negress”—was that even used as late as the 70s and into the 80s? Her parents could have been a bit more rounded out as individuals instead of representations. These few distractions don’t detract from a unique story with an intriguing storyline and intense meta sex scenes. Roorbach is almost his own genre. He’s the Mainer Carl Hiassen in his dedication to untangling and tying up multiple storylines and presenting humans in all their glory and warts.