cover image The Hundred Waters

The Hundred Waters

Lauren Acampora. Grove, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8021-5974-8

In the arresting latest from Acampora (The Paper Wasp), a former artist is jolted from her suburban torpor. Louisa has left Manhattan and her photography career behind to settle in the wealthy town of Nearwater, Conn., with her older architect husband, Richard, and their 12-year-old daughter, Sylvie. Shaken by the death of a former lover from her Manhattan art world days, Louisa begins to mistrust the “fairytale quicksand” of her Connecticut life (“Grown people need friction to live,” as the author puts it). Enter the Steigers, an Austrian couple who are big players on the international art scene, and whose artist son, Gabriel, makes brash environmentalist installations (he calls one of them a “new ark for our time”). Gabriel soon talks Louisa into an under-the-table residency at the town art center, which she’s trying to whip into shape, and enlists Sylvie’s help in a secret and dangerous project. The entanglements result in a series of literal and figurative conflagrations. Louisa makes for an alluring heroine who is more complex than the average bored, tempted suburbanite. The supporting characters, however, are less well drawn, whether it be the priggish Richard or the committed but comically pompous Gabriel. Still, Acampora achieves a sharp and tense depiction of an illusory and stultifying haven. Overall, it’s enjoyably offbeat. Agent: Bill Clegg, Clegg Agency. (Aug.)