cover image Returning Lost Loves

Returning Lost Loves

Yehoshua Kenaz. Zoland Books, $14 (250pp) ISBN 978-1-58642-013-0

Reading this clever, humorous and original novel is like spending an afternoon with a con artist, cooperating fully as you are stripped of your money, jewels and gold fillings: even after everything is gone, you still feel good. Horan (Life in the Rainbow) uses magic realism, Native American myths and the gall of a sideshow barker to captivate the reader. Leslie, estranged youngest son of doughnut king Jacob Siconski, returns after a 20-year exile to attend his father's funeral. The old man's will vindictively omits Leslie in favor of his daughter, Mary, and his eldest son, Charlie, whose whereabouts are unknown. Traumatized by the death of his mother in a car crash when he was 12, Charlie grew into an eccentric, emotionally disturbed adult who vanished several years earlier. Shortly after the funeral, Leslie gets a phone call from a detective in Wisconsin telling him that Charlie has been murdered at an Indian burial ground outside Baraboo, home of the Circus World Museum. Leslie sets off to learn the truth about his brother's life and death. He encounters a bizarre set of characters, all of whom loved Charlie. There is an immigrant farmer, an Indian shaman, a circus clown and Charlie's trio of lovers. The local Ho-Chunk Indians believe Charlie was a god sent to wreak vengeance on Buffalo Bill. But even the most absurd aspects of the story are not what they first seem, and while the details don't quite come together, this is still a rousingly entertaining book full of tantalizing secrets and genial flimflam. (Apr. 1)