cover image The Lonely Hearts Hotel

The Lonely Hearts Hotel

Heather O'Neill. Riverhead, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1373-9

In a love story of epic proportions, O'Neill's (Daydreams of Angels) excellent historical novel plumbs the depths of happiness and despair for two orphans determined not to let the world get them down. Stepping into the minds of children, circus performers, prostitutes, gangsters, and into the dismal days of the Great Depression, the world on these pages is unforgettable and larger than the moon. Pierrot and Rose are abandoned to an orphanage in 1914 Montreal, where they grow up together and discover their talent for absurdist, Vaudevillian-style performances in front of the other orphan children, then later in front of rich patrons in the city. Pierrot, with his mesmerizing piano, and Rose, with her invisible dancing bear, make lavish plans for their artistic career, fall in love with each other, and are inseparable%E2%80%94until they are forced apart as teens. Through the ensuing years, each holds on to their dreams of extravagant circus shows and of finding each other again, while entering a dark world of drugs, sex, starvation, and survival. At the very end of the tunnel are floodlights to the stage, sad clowns, gigantic moon props, chorus girls, and the one thing that time and distance cannot diminish%E2%80%94true love grander than any circus act. This novel will cast a spell on readers from page one. (Feb.)