Robert Stone, Author . Houghton Mifflin $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-395-96349-4

Stone's shortest novel, and his first in five years (after Damascus Gate, 1998), is a tight, brilliantly observed tale of one man's moral dissolution. Michael Ahearn is a respected professor of literature at a small college in the upper Midwest, with a lovely wife and 12-year-old son, but a vague dissatisfaction gnaws at him, exacerbated by a frightening incident while deer hunting and the near-death of his son from exposure. When Michael meets a new professor, the beautiful and electrifying Lara Purcell, he falls under her spell and launches an affair, endangering his marriage and his relationship with his son. At Lara's prompting, Michael travels with her to her Caribbean island home of St. Trinity, a nation rife with political violence, where Lara hopes to repossess the soul she believes has been captured by a voodoo goddess. The narrative undergoes a tonal shift on the troubled, threatening island, with events unfolding in a more intense, then nearly hallucinatory way, especially as Michael is himself possessed during a voodoo ceremony in which Lara hopes to reclaim her soul. A brief return to the U.S. mainland closes the novel on a somber note. All of Stone's characters here are etched in the acid of hard truth, with Stone probing deep—particularly into Michael, a sensitive, at times courageous man whose lust for the divine, for transcendence or salvation, is spoiled by a self-deception and self-indulgence that lead him astray and finally turn his life to ash. This is a novel of bold prose and subtle perceptions, a small, hard gem from a master writer. 7-city author tour; simultaneous unabridged audio. (Apr. 22)

Reviewed on: 02/17/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-618-33125-3
Hardcover - 341 pages - 978-0-7862-5646-4
Paperback - 249 pages - 978-0-618-44674-2
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