The Keep

The Keep

by Jennifer Egan

Anne Ferber (12/04/11): I love Jennifer Egan's writing, so with this novel, I have now read all her books. Her characters are so kooky and the situations so bizarre, you kind of feel like you're in for a ride.

This, it seems to me, is a comic gothic tale (is there such a thing?) complete with old, European castle and mysterious Keep(tower) which houses an old eccentric matriarch who is just plain crazy.

The story has two plot lines: 1) Two cousins, Howie and Danny, who were childhood friends are now reunited twenty five years later in a project to develop and refurbish an old castle into a five star new age spa for rich, imaginative tourists. As chidren, Howie was the victim of a prank, for which Danny never lost his guilt as a participant. 2) Ray is in prison for murder and joins a writing class to alleviate boredom and get away from his crazy cellmate a few hours a week. He is writing a story about two guys who are reunited childhood friends who are refurbishing a castle, etc. etc. He also has a crush on the teacher of the writing class.

How this all comes together towards the end is a kind of JOLT. The characters are so nutty that you really have to just put down the book and laugh for a bit before resuming.

The final chapter, a short explanation of all that happened, is narrated by the writing teacher, whose own story is a gripping tale as well.
Rating: ****

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