Mysterium

Susan Froderberg. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-21768-6
Froderberg’s austere adventure story is set in the early 1980s on Mt. Sarasvati, a fictional mountain in the Himalayas, and follows a group of climbers as they attempt a peak that hasn’t been climbed for 25 years. Instigating the climb is Sara, named for the mountain, which was in turn named for the goddess Sarasvati, and which is called Mysterium by Westerners. Sara wants to climb the mountain to honor her mother, who died when Sara was seven. She and her father, a philosophy professor and avid climber, are joined by six other friends ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s, all with their own ghosts and issues. On the gradual ascent, which takes months, they are accompanied by various porters and Sherpas, who believe, evidently with some justification, that the mountain is unhappy with those attempting to conquer her. Froderberg (Old Border Road) has a firm grasp on the technical aspects of climbing, as well as its many dangers, but her formal and sometimes oracular vocabulary, which routinely includes words like “curmurring” and “orogeny,” is likely to send readers to the dictionary. References to literary classics, including Dante’s Divine Comedy and Melville’s Moby-Dick also abound. The book offers the unusual combination of an intellectual challenge coupled with a brutal but ecstatic story. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/18/2018
Release date: 08/14/2018
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-5385-4065-7
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