Last Night in Montreal

( 4 )

Overview

In this stirring debut novel, Emily St. John Mandel crafts a story of love and obsession. Lilia Albert can't remember many details from her childhood-she just knows she was always on the move. As an adult, she travels compulsively, leaving behind friends and lovers all over the world. But when one man refuses to let go and follows her to Montreal, Lilia is forced to come to grips with a past filled with more questions than answers.

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Overview

In this stirring debut novel, Emily St. John Mandel crafts a story of love and obsession. Lilia Albert can't remember many details from her childhood-she just knows she was always on the move. As an adult, she travels compulsively, leaving behind friends and lovers all over the world. But when one man refuses to let go and follows her to Montreal, Lilia is forced to come to grips with a past filled with more questions than answers.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

A young woman with a habit of running away runs away yet again in Mandel's competent if unremarkable debut. As Eli finishes another grim day of work on his thesis (its topic: dead and dying languages) in his Brooklyn apartment, he realizes his girlfriend, Lilia, never returned after going out for the newspaper that morning. About a month later, Eli gets a postcard from someone named Michaela in Montreal telling him that Lilia is there, so he heads north, leaving (thankfully) his insufferable friends behind to natter on about art without him. His quest is interspersed with flashbacks to Lilia's childhood: her father kidnaps her at age seven from her mother's house, and the two go on the lam. Back in present-day Montreal, Eli meets Michaela, who happens to be the daughter of the detective who years ago worked on Lilia's abduction case, and together they try to fill in the blanks of Lilia's past. While the plot is interesting enough, the prose often feels forced and the characters sometimes amount to accumulations of quirks, whimsies and neuroses. An intriguing idea, but the delivery isn't quite there. (June)

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Library Journal

When Lilia Albert is seven, the father she has not seen in more than a year suddenly appears in the middle of the night and steals her away from her rural Canadian home. She is never again seen by her mother or brother. Instead, her independently wealthy dad moves her from one U.S. city to another, along the way educating her in matters both practical and not. Is he a spurned ex-husband who refuses to accept the court's custody decision? Or is he Lilia's savior, taking her away from something awful? When the novel opens, Lilia is a twentysomething Brooklyn dishwasher living with a disgruntled grad student named Eli Jacobs. When Lilia unceremoniously leaves him-a pattern she's perfected-Eli is bereft. As he obsessively searches for her, the story integrates the viewpoints of private investigator Christopher Graydon and Graydon's neglected daughter, Michaela, who has long resented Lilia's looming presence in her family's life. While the plot is occasionally contrived, the fast pacing and unusual characters make this a compelling first novel. Highly recommended for all contemporary fiction collections.
—Eleanor J. Bader

From the Publisher

“I knew it belonged with all those other books on my bookshelves that make me happy just knowing that they're there …The story is important (and the ending is breathtaking), but the plot details are not — to me — the most important aspect of Mandel's novel. For me, that would be the characters and the writing. Each of the characters — major and minor — is wholly alive, three-dimensional in all their complexity, bad choices, general quirkiness and flawed decisions…And the writing simply blew me away.”—Nancy Pearl on NPR’s Morning Edition

"[A] taut, gripping debut ... elegantly compelling."—Booklist

“The pages fly, and the final period leaves a palpable sense of loss.”—Paste Magazine

“Mandel chooses her words with careful love and arranges them to exquisite effect. At its heart this book is a mystery, a few mysteries; we wait and we wonder while being charmed by Mandel’s intricate narrative dance which threads three different moving plot lines together into a perfectly tangled tapestry. Like a tightrope walker’s steps above a cobblestoned alley, her lines follow each other with near breathless precision and echo delicately long after the final page has been turned.” —ForeWord Magazine

"Mandel tells an utterly absorbing story, pulling readers down the rabbit hole and keeping them racing through its long, strange warrens. The writing is vibrant, and Lilia is a vivid and haunting character. ... Last Night in Montreal is an exciting debut: a thriller, a love story, and a quiet ballad about life's fleeting connections."—Quill & Quire

"What carries the tale are the finely wrought characterizations of Eli and Lilia and, unexpectedly, Christopher, the detective, who becomes an essential cog in the expanding machinery of Mandel's plot - yet the book remains far from a whodunit. “What we're made to ponder is the mystery of human connection: how it is born, how it fades and dies and revives, how love defines us or leaves us undone."—The Globe and Mail

The Barnes & Noble Review
We know from the second sentence of Last Night in Montreal that protagonist Lilia disappears, but it is the first sentence -- "No one stays forever" -- that defines this beautiful, complicated, and occasionally disappointing debut novel. Lilia enters grad student Eli's spartan and stable life one day at a coffee shop. She has a bohemian beauty (Eli finds her choppy, self-barbered hair "thrilling") and a fascination with his study of dead and dying languages. At first, this seems to hold the key to Mandel's plot: We constantly misinterpret the words of the people we love. It's less important to know about Eli than to know he cares enough about Lilia to try and understand why she, in her own words, "doesn't know how to stay." Lilia, used to an itinerant lifestyle after years of moving rapidly with her father, leaves Eli in one city and pops up in another, living with the mysterious Michaela. Michaela's father, police officer Charles Graydon, is also chasing Lilia -- but his reasons for doing so couldn't be more different from Eli's. Unfortunately for plot cohesion, at this point the idea that "no one stays forever" takes over, and sometimes remembering why an event or character matters takes effort. Fortunately for Mandel's future as a novelist, that theme was the right one to pursue. The author is concerned with the different faces of neglect and their consequences. Once Lilia's full story is revealed, characters understand each other all too well -- and perhaps too late. Mandel's exquisite use of language and pacing mean that every last word counts, up to the very last sentence. --Bethanne Patrick
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440761423
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 11/6/2009
  • Format: MP3
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Ships to U.S.and APO/FPO addresses only.

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