"The spirit of Charles Dickens seems to hover over the pages of Oscar Hijuelos' fourth novel. A Christmas Carol comes to mind frequently, for most of the transformations in Edward Ives' life occur during the holiday season. As a very young child of unknown parentage and uncertain ethnicity he is admitted to a Catholic orphanage. His years there permanently fuse in his imagination his love of the season with a belief in the redemptive power of faith. He is adopted by a sweet-tempered widower at Christmas. He meets his wife Anne at Christmas. And, in the tragic event at the heart of the novel, he loses his 17-year-old son to an act of random violence during the holiday. Much of the novel's action is taken up with Ives' long struggle to retain his faith in the face of loss, and to reaffirm it by reaching out to his son's imprisoned murderer.
As he demonstrated in his exuberant earlier novels (The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien), Hijuelos shares with Dickens a deep conviction that often serves to preserve or redeem us. He's also fascinated with the way in which place shapes our lives, recording here an exact, gritty portrait of Mr. Ives' New York City neighborhood from the 1920s to the present.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Wanna Read It With Me?
Mr. Ives' Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos. Available at your local Barnes and Noble, your local library, or if you must-used through Amazon for like a penny. Here's a blurb for it: