The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
Paul is a young recovering drug addict, struggling through a degree in finance he couldn’t care less about. Having lost the trust of his widowed mother, his hopes of studying musical composition are crushed when he’s sent to college in Toronto study a ‘practical’ career. But long-lived habits are hard to break, and his natural attraction to badly made choices soon plunges him into troubled waters. His only option? To run away from the well-structured life he never wanted, and seek shelter at his sister Vincent’s apartment in New York.
As the story moves between the busy metropolis and the quietness of the remote wilderness, the lives of ordinary strangers touch each other through a series of chance meetings, mundane coincidences and unconscious desires. Some destinies are changed forever as the certainty of their expectations vanish into a world they never thought could become their reality. In this story, we meet those who are left staring into the void of uncertainty, grappling to find their new place in a society that has left them behind. We also meet those who sleepwalk across a fine line of casual immorality and social conditioning, and are left to confront the ghosts of their guilt.
Emily St. John Mandel’s previous novel was the widely acclaimed Station Eleven, which won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke award in 2015. The Glass Hotel is the author’s fifth novel and a gentle study of the ordinariness of greed and corruption, but also of the quiet tenacity and valour of those who pursue a love that endures. Her prose is quiet and observant, like the video-art reflections made by the narrator of the story, the beautiful Vincent. Her style is reminiscent of the meditative musings of an existentialist novel, which slowly uncovers a complex portrait of the tragedy of humankind.