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In Laura van den Berg’s surreal, mystifying, and deeply felt second novel, Clare, recently widowed, arrives in Havana, Cuba, to attend the 36th annual Festival of New Latin American Cinema, which her horror-loving film-professor husband, Richard, had purchased tickets for. The day after the screening of the movie Richard wanted most to see, Clare finds him standing outside the Museum of the Revolution. He’s wearing a white linen suit she’s never seen before, and he’s supposed to be dead.
Meticulously constructed and brimming with layered, poetic imagery, The Third Hotel follows Clare through her time in Havana as the distinction between reality and fantasy becomes increasingly blurred. In van den Berg’s Havana, animals escape from zoos and trains fly off the tracks while Clare follows her once-dead husband and charts her less-than-perfect marriage. As her search for clarity becomes increasingly opaque, the reader is forced to consider not only what is real and what is not, but what truths are lingering behind Clare’s own involvement in her husband’s disappearance and reemergence.
Filled with subtle but striking meditations on grief, marriage, art, misogyny, and the loneliness of travel, The Third Hotel is a singular, propulsive, brilliantly shape-shifting novel from an inventive author at the height of her narrative powers.
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