Click Here To Purchase THE LOST BOOK OF MALA R.: A NOVEL

Author: Rose MacDowell

ISBN:10: 0385338589:  ISBN-13: 978-0385338585

Publisher: Bantam, 2011and sold by Random House Digital

This remarkable braid of four women’s lives serves as social commentary and American history. It’s also mysterious and romantic, intelligently wrought, very readable, and a real page-turner.

Rose MacDowell seduces the reader by first introducing an unsettling event of 1948: A 19-year-old Gypsy is sent out of her closed community because bad things happen when she is around. This occurs in West Texas, of all places, where the Romany people have been working on farms. Mala hitchhikes to Bakersfield, California, where she has a friendly contact, a former ranch housekeeper named Ruth, who taught Mala to read, and who knows her true parentage.

Mala’s story is interrupted to bring us into the present-day anxiety of Golden Hills Estates where a woman’s body has been found. We meet Christine, Linda and Audrey and their husbands. The unsolved crime is a catalyst to the unraveling of careers and marriages already under duress due to the recession. Individual decisions and family relationships grow more bizarre, but not so strange we can’t identify with what is sometimes comic, often painful.

The link between past and present is Mala’s personal scrapbook of sayings, memories, maps, and perhaps “spells” found at a garage sale by Linda and given to Audrey, who has a taste for superstition. Audrey wants to find out who Mala was and what happened to her. Back and forth from present to past, the women’s stories evolve, lives change, and the loose ends are woven into the braid.

This novel is hard to categorize. Mala’s life journey is a love story just beyond reach. Audrey’s persistence makes the plot seem like an amateur sleuth “procedural.” The suburban events at times recall “Desperate Housewives.” The richly textured prose and striking images raise it to literature.

I especially like these: Mala observes “skinny [tree] trunks sprouting from sidewalks, their branches spreading lushly over graffitied bus stops and empty parking lots. They looked like they couldn’t wait for human beings to go extinct so they could confiscate the place.” Linda fixes a special dinner to impress Peter’s new, rough-around-the-edges boss. She is serving elk. “It was more than meat, it was frontier food with an important subliminal message. Peter had come from nothing just like Dennis, his Yale MBA and twenty-five years in Manhattan just elitist bumps….”

Be prepared for mood swings. For example, you’ll enjoy sarcastic humor when a suburban housewife calls the Golden Hills development “an internment camp for bleached blondes.” Then you will grow sober when, in the gypsy encampment, Mala ponders who is to blame for a death. An older Gypsy tells her, “It’s somebody’s [fault]. That’s how things work. A person does something and something else comes to pass.’”

A major turning point is the disappearance of Paige on the day of the special dinner. She is Peter’s angry, 10-year-old daughter, staying with them for the summer. Stepmom Linda engages Paige in helping in the kitchen. “Paige broke the eggs into the stainless steel bowl, singing, ‘So long little chicken,’ with each crack…” When she doesn’t return from her friend’s house that afternoon, and one of her shoes is found, suspicion grows that one of the other husbands is a killer.

If you like to think about people’s secret lives and deepest motivations, you will enjoy this book very, very much. Just don’t plan anything else for the weekend.


Click Here To Purchase THE LOST BOOK OF MALA R.: A NOVEL