My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Leaving a Manhattan planetarium in 1965, 10-year old Loren grasps the gloved hand of a woman he mistakes for his aunt, Alma. It will be fifteen years before Loren sees Alma again. Her name will be Mala, his name Enzo, and the separate journeys they take before they are reunited are the focus of this epic, fantastical story of love, betrayal, spiders and stars.
It is a pleasure to suspend belief as A Trip to the Stars unfolds. Mala and Enzo relate their stories in alternating sections and a world of characters pours forth. Mala begins a quest- first searching for her nephew, then for a vanished lover, and ultimately for her soul- that takes her from New Orleans to Vietnam, then through island archipelagos that represent her loose connection to earth. Enzo is cocooned at a sprawling hotel outside Las Vegas, surrounded by a Gothic cast of permanent and transient residents who serve as tutors of his eclectic education. A cleverly rendered combination of star-crossed fate and merciless human manipulation connects Mala and Enzo.
Much of this novel is ravishing diversion. Much of it is grinding tedium. Nicholas Christopher infuses Mala’s storyline with tremendous passion and feeling. You soar as she discovers deep, abiding love and crash when she loses her way. Her journey, both mystical and maddening, is fascinating.
Christopher employs expository detail to relate Enzo’s life. Told in first person by Enzo, his story drags on and on, with a voice that never varies, no matter what Enzo’s age. It reads as one long flashback, like an interminable movie voiceover. Christopher mires this storyline in so much exhausting detail that he loses all sense of urgency, suspense, and relevance. The threads that weave together to form the complete tapestry of Enzo’s and Mala’s destinies are found throughout Enzo’s narrative, so resist the temptation to skim. But prepare yourself to suffer boredom at the eye-rolling conceit.
Christopher’s prose is achingly beautiful, his imagination vast and astonishing, his characters warm and profound. Despite my frustration with the author’s style choices A Trip To The Stars will stay with me. And the night sky will hold deeper wonder