Writing with her customary abundance of imagination, Smith ( The Book of Phoebe ; Lament for a Silver-Eyed Woman ) spins a mesmerizing yarn that stretches from evocative scenes of Miami Beach in the 1920s to the 1936 Olympic games in Munich. The voice of Lily Neelan, a free-spirited and engagingly innocent girl, has a quirky freshness reminiscent of a character in Vonnegut. Lily, a gold medal-winning diver, doesn't care for German men in uniforms (``that Nazi laughing''), but her mother, a glamorous hooker, snares a mysterious German suitor, His Excellency Albert Rexhault, who bestows upon Lily a hotel in the Dry Tortugas that is a fantastic re-creation of the ocean liner Normandie. Lily discovers that Rexhault is another ``missing'' person who, like herself, has an obscure past and a dislocated present. The energy and vitality of the writing more than counterbalance the loop-the-loops of the plot as Lily encounters a series of ``missing'' men. Pirate Jean Laffite figures as (perhaps) an ancestor, and Lily seems to have been named by his long-lived parrot, Rum Keg. Eccentric professor Dr. Gallileo offers Lily a long-distance Yale education; Ernest Hemingway, Adolf Hitler and Zelda Fitzgerald, among others, have walk-on parts. There is, of course, a romance for Lily--with Gresham Young, coach of the Yale diving team. Though the wild and romantically picaresque plot often defies credibility, readers will relish this novel, zigzags and all. (May)
Lily is a young Olympic gold medal winner about to embark on some fantastic adventures at the start of this fanciful novel. It is 1936 and rumors of war abound. Lily and her gallantly opportunistic mother are returning from Europe on the Normandie when they meet their new sugar daddy, Rexhault. Like Lily, Rexhault has had a mother but no known father, and he helps Lily in the search for her parentage. The search leads to New Haven and New Orleans, and to a 100-year-old talking parrot, Rum Keg, who once belonged to pirate Jean Lafitte. Along the way, Lily finds several ``missing men'' to adopt and one particular one to love. A strange story, but it works because Lily is a very alive, charmingly naive young woman. Too quirky to be hugely popular, this should bring pleasure to some readers.-- Janet Boyarin Blundell, Brookdale Community Coll., Lincroft, N.J.