by Mark Helpern
This novel is about the unforgettable character Peter Lake. That’s his name because he didn’t have one. He has beaten time. Well, I think he’s beaten time but you might think that time is an entirely different thing than we thought it was. It’s magical. It’s about Winter for sure.
It’s 750 pages, but came highly recommended so I dove in. Not one page was a waste. It spans over a century in New York City, its harbor, rivers and bays, and the Hudson Valley… and an impossible and yet highly plausible town beyond the valley. In terms of time it’s a lot like the inside back page of a Mad Magazine cover where the image is one thing until you fold along the lines and go “Ahh!”
I fear that evoking thoughts of Mad Magazine might lead you to thinking this novel is not serious. Oh, it's serious. It's serious about love and belonging and adventure and awful, senseless grudges that are fun -- all those things that are proven to scoff at time.
I already loved the city… and the impossible… and messing with time, but this book runs a great distance with those feelings. It’s exceptional.
It’s a very funny, fully engaging tale full of passion, epic love, long held grudges… and a horse that can do extraordinary things. The tale begins with him running away from his stable in Brooklyn over 100 years ago. He’ll be no slave.
Then there’s Peter Lake. Did I mention him?
Helpern is a very gifted writer. If you are tired of the American novel, if you think it has had its day in the sun, pick this one up. There is little convention about it.