The fiction of Jonathan Carroll tends to exist in the fringes, in the spaces between genres, never quite fully slipping into any category. It's realism but with the occasional sidestep into the fantastic or surreal. This novel is no exception. A woman called Miranda returns enthusiastically to a school reunion with the hope of meeting an old boyfriend, only to be devastated by the news he died in a car accident a few years before.
She moves on, or flees, back to New York and begins working for an extraordinary old woman with a huge artistic collection. She intends to sell the artifacts of her life in order to enjoy her one hundredth birthday, and Miranda is one of the few people she is willing to help her do it. Miranda starts putting the past behind her, finds love in an affair with a married man and things see to be going well until she glimpses her dead boyfriend on the street. At which point things start to move into motion, with ghosts of both her past and her future haunting her.
Tragedy seemingly follows her wherever she goes, seemingly without reason, yet gradually the pattern of her life begins to reveal itself. There is a moment where the events really cover to a head and it veers towards horror, yet there is a calm after the storm where she has to come to terms with what she has learned. It is very much a novel of karma and how simple actions can have repercussions that extend a long way into the future.
As usual Carroll has a very gentle touch until the important moments, languid prose that cajoules you slowly along until hitting you with shot from the left field. He builds a story slowly, like an architect, and then walks you through the rooms. Its always an enjoyable experience, and when he touches upon horror it is never cold and impersonal, rather something with an emotional weight. This is not his best work, but stands up very well and is a good introduction to his unique vision and easily good enough to kick start an interest in his other work.