I enjoy it when a book presents a challenge; when some intrinsic part of a novel makes it difficult to review. Glittering World by Robert Levy does that, and in the best kind of way. I am going to try and give you an idea about the feel of this novel, and what makes it so good, without dropping spoilers like bombs.
Michael “Blue” Whitley is a young chef with a hot restaurant, and some financial difficulties. He takes three of his friends to the remote Canadian community where he was born, to sell an inherited house. Starling Cove seems like a wonderful place, the location of a former artist’s colony where Blue was born. Once there, however, Blue discovers that he and another child had disappeared into the woods for weeks, an incident that he does not remember. Slowly, his memory starts to return, and he realizes that his past is a lie. His former life starts to intrude upon his present, with startling results. Soon Blue and Elisa disappear, and Jeremy and Gabe try to find them, and become ensnared in the plots and plans of various locals.
That sounds like it might be a solid plot for a thriller, but Mr. Levy has a loftier ambition. Blue’s past is full of supernatural events, and this is one of the places where Mr. Levy truly shines. There is a sense of true otherworldliness in the way he both imagines and relays this part of the novel. It is rare to see such a fresh and surprising take on some of the oldest legends and myths that we have.
The characters are also first rate. From Blue to his best friend Elisa, her husband Jeremy, and Gabe, a young and admiring co-worker are all etched with care. They all take their turns telling the story, and each has a distinctive and realistic voice. All of them bring a different angle to the story, and we can see them change as the story unfolds. The sub-plots and smaller storylines are dovetailed with the main story, and all bring complexity and tension to the characters. These characters have a life outside of the main story line, and the ways that they interact with each adds depth to the story. Even in smaller roles, the local characters are real as well.
Mr. Levy’s prose is at once sharp, yet dreamy, and it goes hand-in-hand with the background. The landscape and the atmosphere are vivid and lush, and is brought to life with an eye for detail. I could smell the flowers and feel the grass, and while that is an accomplishment in its own right, it really pays off by acting as an anchor to the story’s more hallucinatory moments. That is one of the keys to this novel, because so much of the power and magic in this story is related to the environment.
Finally, this is one of those rare books where the final is apt, and telling. This novel, and the world that is created in it, is truly glittering. It is a dark, romantic, and sometimes scary place, and Mr. Levy brings it to life. I know that I have kept most of the plot to myself, but trust me, Glittering World is worth keeping.