Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje


Other worldly is the term that comes to mind to describe Ondaatje’s characters in Divisadero.    The first family we encounter consists of the father, his daughter Anna whose mother died in childbirth, another baby girl (Claire) taken home from the hospital along with his daughter because her mother also died in childbirth, and a boy, Coop, taken in because his parents were murdered when he was four.  Wildly violent acts are a part of their lives.  The three are teenagers in the 1970s and live in the California gold country; an explosion in their lives sends them in different directions.  We dip into the professional gambler’s world with Coop, in fact, we dip so deeply that a hand of Texas Hold ‘Em is laid out for us. 

And then in contrast, we move to southeastern France where Anna is researching a writer from early in the century, Lucien Segura.  An older man who becomes her lover knew the writer as a child, and we hear the life story of Segura, moving back and forth through time.   We hear about neighbors of Segura and his mother, Roman and his very young wife Marie-Neige, who met (or something like that) at a one of the many spring marriage fairs.  Very other worldly.

Very intense and riveting.

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