" A] future cult classic." -- The New York Times Book Review
"There's Borges and Bola o, Kafka and Cort zar, Modiano and Murakami, and now Laura van den Berg." -- The Washington Post
Named a Best Book of 2018 by The Boston Globe, Huffington Post and Lit Hub .
" A] future cult classic." --The New York Times Book Review
"There's Borges and Bola o, Kafka and Cort zar, Modiano and Murakami, and now Laura van den Berg." --The Washington Post
Named a Best Book of 2018 by The Boston Globe, Huffington Post and Lit Hub. An August 2018 IndieNext Selection. Named a Summer 2018 Read by The Washington Post, Vulture, Nylon, Elle, BBC, InStyle, Refinery29, Bustle, O, the Oprah Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Harper's Bazaar, Conde Nast Traveler, Southern Living, Lit Hub, and Vol. 1 Brooklyn.
In Havana, Cuba, a widow tries to come to terms with her husband's death--and the truth about their marriage--in Laura van den Berg's surreal, mystifying story of psychological reflection and metaphysical mystery.
Shortly after Clare arrives in Havana, Cuba, to attend the annual Festival of New Latin American Cinema, she finds her husband, Richard, standing outside a museum. He's wearing a white linen suit she's never seen before, and he's supposed to be dead. Grief-stricken and baffled, Clare tails Richard, a horror film scholar, through the newly tourist-filled streets of Havana, clocking his every move. As the distinction between reality and fantasy blurs, Clare finds grounding in memories of her childhood in Florida and of her marriage to Richard, revealing her role in his death and reappearance along the way. The Third Hotel is a propulsive, brilliantly shape-shifting novel from an inventive author at the height of her narrative powers.
Check in, and leave certainty behind
How well can one know oneself? Laura van den Berg’s eerie yet compelling second novel, The Third Hotel, explores this question with a clanging loneliness, like a wrench falling down an elevator shaft.
Clare, troubled and newly widowed, travels to Havana, Cuba, for a horror film festival that her late husband had planned to attend. From the onset, everything is strange, creating a bleak space between Clare and the reader. Just when the reader starts to question Clare’s reliability as a narrator, Clare spots Richard, her dead husband, in the streets of Havana. She follows him and spies on him for several days, but she’s less like a devastated lover who can’t believe her eyes and more like a cool and distant voyeur. She follows him to a resort (or is it a mental health facility?), where they have a literal post-mortem on their relationship that leaves Clare grappling with the reality of her role in their marriage.
A major theme of this slim novel is mystery: the nature of Richard’s hit-and-run death; the contents of a simple package he left behind; the actuality of the man Clare is following in Havana. Did she find Richard, or someone who looks like Richard, or is she just imagining him altogether? All the alternatives seem equally plausible through van den Berg’s adeptly disorienting storytelling. An equally important theme is the undead, whether it be Richard, zombies in the festival’s films or inescapable memories that dig their way to the surface.
Clare is so aloof that it’s hard to picture her ever connecting with Richard in the past, though van den Berg supplies occasional flashbacks that reveal their somewhat joyous union. A little slow to start, the pace picks up in the second half as clues planted by the author come full circle.
The Third Hotel is a chilly, thought-provoking study of loss, loneliness and life after death.