Like Dan Brown's follow-up to "The Da Vinci Code," fans have been waiting six years for another novel from Audrey Niffenegger, author of "The Time Traveler's Wife." The Chicago-based author, who also spends time each year in London, has delivered another supernatural story, entitled "Her Fearful Symmetry." From our review:
A recently deceased rare book dealer, Elspeth not only has a family crypt in the cemetery but also had lived in an apartment overlooking it, complete with private entrance and special key. Elspeth has left her home and all it entails to her twin nieces from Chicago, Julia and Valentina, daughters of her own identical twin, Edie, but Elspeth's presence -- and a lot more -- still lingers there.
Readers of Niffenegger's previous novel will not be surprised to find an element of the supernatural here. At first Elspeth is merely an observer as the twins adjust to their new environment, but gradually she or, more to the point, the author finds a way for her to communicate with them and with their downstairs neighbor Robert, a younger man formerly Elspeth's lover. Although ingenious, the way this dubious process takes place seems a little too convenient, taking just enough account of some physical reality while otherwise operating on a metaphysical plane. As in "The Time Traveler's Wife," Niffenegger tends to pussyfoot around larger philosophical issues.
In a recent interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Niffenger said, "I'm interested in fiction that shows something outside the normal human experience. I'm interested in how fiction can compress time or leap over space." In her last book, she used Chicago as a setting to provide extra weight and contrast. "It's kind of an unaccepted place for anything really strange to happen," she told Bookslut in 2003. Now she's totally comfortable setting a ghost story in a graveyard. And in her everyday life, she's comfortable with things being a little spooky, too: She's got taxidermied critters, including a raven, in her living ("living"?) room.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Random House