REVIEWS: 'Faces in the Crowd,' by Valeria Luiselli, and 'Windigo Island,' by William Kent Krueger

  • Updated: September 2, 2014 - 10:50 AM

"Faces in the Crowd" by Valeria Luiselli

 

FACES IN THE CROWD

By Valeria Luiselli. (Coffee House Press; 146 pages; $15.95. )

In her debut novel, “Faces in the Crowd,” Valeria Luiselli draws readers assuredly into a meditation on time, place and identity as if she were expertly kneading dough. What begins as an account of a Mexican woman juggling work, children and a preoccupied husband bends and folds repeatedly, becoming more elastic and incorporating ever more savory ingredients. As the mother wistfully writes about her youthful days working for a New York City publisher seeking the next Roberto Bolano, Luiselli, also from Mexico, playfully jabs at the pitfalls of translation and literary trends. Seeing the fiction in the fiction business, the young researcher seizes on a minor figure from the Harlem Renaissance, Gilberto Owen, and crisscrosses the city, researching/inventing his life. She decides it was possible, no, likely, no, that he absolutely hobnobbed with the likes of Federico Garcia Lorca. Then, with a quick turn, Luiselli brings Owen into focus. He has become captivated by a bookish young woman (from the future?) whom he glimpses repeatedly in his Harlem haunts. Both clad in gray (tights for her, a robe for him), these outsiders are on the verge of nonbeing — or great discovery. Luiselli has the sure hand needed to pull off this inventive “horizontal novel, told vertically.”

KATHE CONNAIR, copy editor

 

WINDIGO ISLAND

By William Kent Krueger. (Atria Books, 339 pages, $24.99.)

In “Windigo Island,” William Kent Krueger’s 14th Cork O’Connor mystery, private investigator O’Connor turns his big brain and prodigious courage to finding a teenage girl who is missing from a Wisconsin Indian reservation. He partners with his daughter, Jenny, and his old mentor, Henry Meloux, in an investigation that quickly focuses on the enormous problem of sexual trafficking of runaway girls (particularly Indian girls).

The hunt takes them from northern Minnesota to the south shore of Lake Superior, the port of Duluth, and the oil fields of North Dakota.

Krueger is skillful in many things — creating strong characters, building drama and conflict, braiding in Indian legend and spirituality, and spinning a good yarn — but sense of place may well be his forte. Duluth, Bayfield and North Dakota are all vividly described in this book and never has shabby downtown Duluth seemed so beautiful — and so dangerous.

LAURIE HERTZEL, senior editor/books

 

Krueger will read at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Bookcase of Wayzata; with Jim Northrup (“Dirty Copper”) at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Common Good Books; at 7 p.m. Sept. 8 at Micawber’s in St. Paul; and at 7 p.m. Sept. 10 at Excelsior Bay Books in Excelsior.

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