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The Third Hotel
224 pages; Farrar, Straus and Giroux
"You are dead, she thought. How could you have forgotten?" American tourist Clare has come to Cuba to attend the Festival of New Latin American Cinema, where she finds herself standing a few hundred feet from her husband, Richard. Richard's appearance should come as no surprise—a film scholar, specializing in the genre of horror, he bought the tickets to the festival himself—except that Richard is dead, the victim of a hit-and-run just a month earlier. Clare sets off in pursuit of the living man she knows as her dead husband, an apparent contradiction, chasing him through a city, Havana, that is itself full of contradictions, with its "dead streetlights and magnificent boulevards," where "buildings on the edge of total ruin stood adjacent to hotels with doormen." Van den Berg's novel is a twisty exploration of grief and perception as well as the ways in which we contribute to our own undoing. "We are all erasing ourselves a tiny bit at a time," a professor of quantum physics and the afterlife tells Clare. "Drinking, fantasies, secrets, denial, hysteria, double lives, suicide, ennui, schemes. Those are just a few of the ways we disappear."
— Julia Pierpont