Monday, January 19, 2009

The Laments by George Hagen

Flap copy:
"Meet the Laments- the outlandish, stubborn, and beguiling family at the center of this...novel which begins with a child switched at birth. As the Laments fitfully move from Africa to England to suburban New Jersey, one wonders where they will ever belong..."

This novel tracking the lives of a globetrotting family paints a poignant picture of the expat lifestyle and the desperate quest to belong. Julia and Howard Lament are both trying to overcome the shortcomings of their upbringing, and find in each other all that they ever wanted. When their first bouncing happy baby is kidnapped by a troubled young woman in Rhodesia, they find themselves adopting her sickly premature son. Thus begins a life of uncertainty for both Julia and Howard as well as their son Will. Constantly on the move searching for a better job, a better lifestyle, a sense of home, the Laments instead find themselves drifting further and further from each other and from the life they once dreamed of living.

I was impressed by the writing style, and the way characters in the story gradually revealed more and more about themselves as the novel progressed. At heart, I found this a sad book, and was pained by the Laments efforts to create a home for themselves in an ever-changing world. Hagen does a wonderful job of conveying the sense of disconnect that pervades the expat community even today. I highly recommend this debut novel, and must say it reminds me as well of Telex From Cuba which I reviewed a few months ago.

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