Famine

Todd Komarnicki, Author
Todd Komarnicki, Author Arcade Publishing $22.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-55970-365-9
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Mass Market Paperbound - 288 pages - 978-0-452-27932-2
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-61145-152-8
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The title of this haunting new novel by the author of Free (1993) alludes to the spiritual emptiness of its characters as much as to the literal starvation that claims the life of its protagonist, Daniel Rowan. Since the age of 14, when he inadvertently contributed to the death of his beloved younger brother, Daniel has been a troubled youth of the Holden Caulfield stripe. His fruitless quest for emotional nurturing from a family willfully oblivious to his pain culminates in his death from malnutrition, a fate so unbelievable to the investigating Detective Bell that it prompts an obsessive hunt for a possible murderer. Bell, who might have stepped out of one of Paul Auster's metaphysical mysteries, is a similarly love-starved individual who discovers increasingly eerie parallels between Daniel's life and his own as he intensely pursues Daniel's ghostly wife, Emma, as a possible suspect. Komarnicki alternates chapters presented from Daniel's and Bell's points of view, evoking, in the time and space that separates their lives, a world of unfulfilled longing and maladaptive coping as bleak and palpable as the novel's setting, Manhattan's Lower East Side. Hints of supernatural forces at work on both narrative threads subtly underscore the narrative's theme: the power of emotional need to create its own reality. A stylistic tour de force whose prose is often as spare and stark as the lives of its characters, this brooding variation on the detective tale turns the hunger for human feeling into rich food for thought. (Jan.)
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