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In the Heart of the Whole World based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
In the Heart of the Whole World is a book with literary aspirations, but in the end, they just don't come together. Set in a thinly fictionalized version of Fairfax County, VA, Gardiner traces the change in the county's geography and turns that into a metaphor for the changes in society and a set of individuals' lives. The narrator is a teacher in a rural, turning suburban, high school. At the beginning of the novel, he is having an affair with one of his students. The affair leads to a child, but the student decides to marry an old boyfriend and tell him the child is theirs. The narrator, Sykes, becomes fixated on Sonia, his daughter, and tries to intrude in all sorts of ways in her life.This intrusion reaches a breaking point when Sonia enters the high school. Sykes wants to become a sort of mentor to her, someone who reveals the intellect that none of her other teachers detect. Instead, he becomes more of a stalker. His stalking of her leads him to follow her into the Whole World Mall (aka Tysons Corner) where an artist is painting an ever-changing mural on the ceiling. Sykes sees his daughter in the artwork and at the same time finds her diary. This leads him to discover a number of disturbing things about his daughter and her friends.Ultimately, Sonia rebels against his attention and turns him in to the school. He cannot explain having her diary and is dismissed from his teaching position. The middle part of the novel wanders as Sykes stays fixated, intervenes--sometimes successfully--in Sonia's life, and builds a relationship of his own. Ultimately, there is some sort of resolution, but it is a disappointment when it arrives.At the beginning of the novel, I was hooked and wanted to like the book. However, thematically the book is lost and the middle part of the novel seems to flow with no narrative direction. While it isn't by any means a terrible book, I can't recommend it either.