cover image Inverno


Cynthia Zarin. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (144p) ISBN 978-0-374-61015-9

Poet Zarin (Orbit) offers a sly and beguiling love story doubling as a meditation on the nature of time. Caroline, a middle-aged mother of two, stands in Central Park on a snowy evening, waiting for a call on her cellphone from her old love Alastair. Interspersed with this waiting, which takes up the bulk of the present-day narrative, are scenes of Caroline at different ages: as a child, an older mother at some point in the future, and a 20-something woman falling in love with Alastair. The novel slips through time and space at a sometimes dizzying pace, exploring the avenues of memory and desire in Caroline’s mind beneath her snow-dusted fox-fur hat. The omniscient narrator occasionally zooms out to explore questions about the identity and meaning of a fictional character like Caroline, and what her story can offer to readers. Though Zarin gets off to a slow start—readers familiar with the plot of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” or the workings of a rotary phone might be tempted to skip passages that describe such things at length—she speeds up soon enough to match the quickness of Caroline’s inner life. This is an ambiguous and often lovely exploration of the limits of love and the unlimited scope of memory and imagination. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie. (Jan.)