Monday, May 23, 2011

Loisaida – A New York Story / Marion Stein

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Literary Fiction/General Fiction/Mystery

Approximate word count: 100-105,000 words

Availability Kindle: YES    Nook: YES    Paper: YES
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Author:

A native New Yorker, Marion Stein has two Masters Degrees, one in creative writing and the other in social work. She moved around the US and Mexico before returning to New York in September 2001. In addition to this novel, she has a novella, The Death Trip, available for your favorite eReader.

Description:

Set in New York City’s East Village in the late 80s, this is the story of those outside society’s mainstream. The neighborhood, also known as Loisaida, is composed of artists, junkies, dreamers, anarchists, and hustlers. It is also a neighborhood on the cusp of gentrification as developers are gutting buildings and displacing much of the population. The story focuses on those who lived there and events going on around them.

The plot centers on a beautiful dancer wannabe who is murdered, and her corpse dismembered. Rumors about how the body was disposed and who was involved in the murder are rampant. A freelance journalist sees a potential book deal and starts digging deeper.

Appraisal:

Loisaida can be viewed two ways. As a work of literary or general fiction, which was the authors intent, or as a mystery.

As a work of literary or general fiction, Loisaida is excellent. Written from the point of view of different characters and constantly switching from one character to another is an approach that can be difficult for the reader to follow, but I didn’t find this to be a problem because Stein’s characters are finely drawn when first introduced. Despite having a large cast, keeping track of the current point of view and how each character connects with the others was rather easy. Although this approach is hard to execute well, Stein did just that. The characters, their stories, and the flavor of the place and time were entertaining and held my interest.

As the story progresses one person emerges as the central character. Peter, an actor turned journalist sees a possible book deal if he can uncover the full story behind the murder and dismemberment of Ingrid, an aspiring dancer. The mentally unstable suspect in custody was almost certainly involved, but rumors that indicate others were involved swirl around. The mystery of who was involved in Ingrid’s murder and exactly what happened ties most of the characters together. While there are other significant plot threads, solving the murder was the most significant.

It is the mystery, central to the plot, where evaluating Loisaida gets tricky. Avoiding spoilers while explaining is also difficult. The book description doesn’t imply you’re reading a mystery. Yet, to the reader, there is a point where it will begin feeling like a mystery. How the story ends and the way the mystery is resolved may be disconcerting for some readers. It was for me. Yet, there is nothing inherently wrong with the ending. Given the story arc, it is more realistic than the ending you might anticipate. That my preconceptions were shaken up when the story took an unexpected turn was a good thing. Understanding why the ending felt wrong … well, that was tricky.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of typos.

Rating: ***** Five stars

7 comments:

Melinda said...

Great review - I really enjoyed this book, too.

Donna Fasano said...

Wow, very intriguing review.

Larry Harrison said...

Yeah, this is a great book. Loved it.

neilschiller said...

Yes, I agree, great book. I read and reviewed it a while back and thought it was an outstanding piece of work. I approached it as a literary novel, with the mystery angle more as a framing device for great characterisation and a real gritty look at 1980s New York, and from that perspective it worked brilliantly in my opinion.

petemorin said...

Great review, Al - I found the ending to be fabulous for the same reason I suspect some might think it otherwise.

Susan Wells Bennett said...

This was an awesome book -- I'm a big fan of Ms. Stein's. Great review, Al.

JD Revene said...

Great review of a great book by one of my favourite authors, and for me the ending worked wonderfully. Yes, it's a surprise, but it fits perfectly with all that comes before.