Friday, March 20, 2009

A Review of The Gentling Box by Lisa Mannetti

The Gentling Box by Lisa Manetti
Dark Hart Press, 2008
310pp, ISBN: 978-0-9787318-9-2

Just finished first novel The Gentling Box by Lisa Manetti and wanted to let you know that I was bowled over.

It's a superb story full of unflinching observation, telling details, and breath-taking turns of events, written beautifully with a masterful control of material, pacing, and story structure.

It is set among the Gypsies in Hungary and Romania at the turn of the last century, a time of change, portent, and dark magic. Imre, a horse trader; his wife Mimi, whom he loves so dearly; their daughter Lenore; his friend Constantine; and others among the nomads have their lives changed irrevocably by the dark magic of Mimi's mother, Anyeta, whose dying wish is to see her daughter one last time. A talisman must also be passed on, a kind of Hand of Glory or Monkey's Paw that carries its own kind of twisted temptation for everyone involved. We see curses, lust for power, corruption, ghosts, possession, self-sacrifice, and redemption portrayed with felicity and conviction. It is a remarkable series of portraits presented in a compelling sequence of well-wrought scenes.

The magic in it is as real as horse sweat and ashes, and the reality described as magical as any wild dream. What an accomplishment, to mix such stuff so well and to tell such a brutal tale so beautifully, with such delicacy of feeling and such empathy. There is real life in it, and the unblinking way Manetti portrays it all is greatly to be admired in an era when so many choose to avert their gazes, or to lie, in order to lessen the sting or to avoid offending prudes. This book tells the blunt truth and therein lies it's great power.

One of the best books I've read in a long time, The Gentling Box is strongly recommended.

That it is Lisa Manetti's first published novel bodes well for her career and for us, her readers. And more good news: she is working on a book about deaths on Mt. Everest. Our wait, to gauge by this work, will be well worthwhile.

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