Maybe because I like conventional mysteries, I am particularly fond of literary fiction that includes elements of the mystery genre. Bill Roorbach's Life among Giants is just such a novel.
Here's the publisher's summary:
At seventeen, David "Lizard" Hochmeyer is nearly seven feet tall, a star quarterback, and Princeton-bound. His future seems all but assured until his parents are mysteriously murdered, leaving Lizard and his older sister, Kate, adrift and alone. Sylphide, the world's greatest ballerina, lives across the pond from their Connecticut home, in a mansion the size of a museum, and it turns out that her rock star husband's own disasters have intersected with Lizard's—and Kate's—in the most intimate and surprising ways. Over the decades that follow, Lizard and Kate are obsessed with uncovering the motives behind the deaths, returning time and again to their father's missing briefcase, his shady business dealings and shaky finances, and to Sylphide, who has threaded her way into Lizard's and Kate's lives much more deeply than either had ever realized. From the football fields of Princeton to a stint with the NFL, from elaborate dances at the mansion to the seductions lying in wait for Lizard, and ultimately to the upscale restaurant he opens in his hometown, it only takes Lizard a lifetime to piece it all together. A wildly entertaining novel of murder, seduction, and revenge—rich in incident, in expansiveness of character, and in lavishness of setting—it's a Gatsby-esque adventure, a larger-than-life quest for answers that reveals how sometimes the greatest mystery lies in knowing one's own heart.If Roorbach's Life among Giants took a straight path, I would have been able to say the story follows Lizard as he tries to make sense of his father, his sister, and the enigmatic Sylphide. The novel, however, is not linear, and the switching from different points in the past to Lizard's present adds to the mystery behind what exactly happened the year of the deaths. Another twist is that Lizard himself tells the story, and we sometimes have reason to question his reliability. Is it just that he was so young when the precipitating events occurred? Or does he have things to hide?
Besides the family story and Lizard and Kate's discoveries, I loved the food theme. It's obvious that Roorbach knows his way around a kitchen because the restaurant and food scenes are evocative: the ground spices, the onions spattering in oil, the perfect BLT, the earthy mushrooms. Roorbach's experience in the food industry and his own love of cooking have brought an authenticity to Lizard's post-football career.
Life among Giants is a look at family, fame, destructive relationships, and misplaced love. It's also a story of food, and last meals bookend Lizard's tale nicely.
In the following short video, Bill Roorbach talks about Life among Giants:
For more about Bill Roorbach, visit his website (and blog) or follow him on Twitter. He's granted a number of interviews in conjunction with Life among Giants, including at Pearl Snap Discount and with Samuel Snoek-Brown.
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Published by Workman / Algonquin Books 2012
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