Sunday, April 1, 2012

Book Review: "The Great Night" by Chris Adrian

Sometimes a book has a beautiful story at its core, but the thread tends to get lost in overcomplication. That's the way I felt about Chris Adrian's The Great Night, a well-written book that meshes the emotional, relationship-driven crises of three San Franciscans with characters from A Midsummer Night's Dream, with mixed results.

It's Midsummer Eve in 2008. Three strangers, each dealing with the wreckage of a relationship, enter Balboa Park, headed to the same party. But unbeknownst to them, Titania, Oberon, and their court call the park their home as well. That night, deep in the throes of sadness over the end of her marriage, which dissolved following the death of her adopted son, Titania releases an ancient menace, which threatens the lives of the immortals, and the mortals alike. The three strangers, along with a group of homeless people rehearsing a musical version of Soylent Green, are sealed in the park—and forced to confront their emotionally turbulent pasts, with bizarre results.

I loved when Adrian spun the stories of the three strangers: Henry, a neurotic, gay oncologist dealing with the breakup of his most long-term relationship, and memories of being kidnapped as a child; Molly, suffering from the sudden suicide of her boyfriend; and Will, an arborist in love with one woman yet compulsively drawn to affairs with others. But sadly, he spent far too much time on the strange world of Titania and her minions, and the kaleidoscopic adventures that ensue were far more jarring than fulfilling. I'd love it if I could learn what actually happened to the characters in this story, because that would be a book truly well worth reading.

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