theMystery.doc by Matthew McIntosh, Grove Press/Atlantic Monthly Press, US $35.00, Pp 1662, October 2017, ISBN 978-0802124913
The Vineyard: A Novel by Maria Duenas/ María Dueñas, Atria Books, US $26.00, Pp 544, October 2017, ISBN 978-1501124532
theMystery.doc is set in the post-9/11 United States. It is the story of a young writer who is writing the follow-up to his first novel but he is not sure of the form to depict the post-9/11 world. It is a world of pop-up ads, search results, web chats, snippets of conversation, and lines of code. One morning, when he wakes up, he realizes that he has lost all memory of who he was. He finds a blank document on his computer screen named themystery.com. theMystery.doc explores how a human being like the young writer is different from the computer. What makes him a human? How is human memory different from a computer’s memory? How is the loss of memory in a computer different from a loss of memory in a human being? How do our relationships give our lives meaning? theMystery.doc is the story of modern America; confusing, intriguing and making little sense. It is a story of a nation and a world that has a shattered culture and fragmented psyche. It is not a novel as we understand the genre. Matthew McIntosh has tried to reinvent the genre and he has been quite successful in his attempt. He shows new directions to the future novelists. It may appear daunting at first sight because of its theme and form but it is quite enjoyable for a cultured and intelligent reader. It is tremendously ambitious and original.
Matthew McIntosh is the author of Los Angeles Times’ bestseller Well. He lives with his wife on the West Coast.
The Vineyard is set in the 1860s Mexico, Cuba, and Spain. Disastrous events take place in the life of Mauro Larrea and, consequently, he loses a large part of his fortune suddenly. Mauro Larrea had built his fortune by sheer hard work. Debt and uncertainty overwhelm him. He risks and gambles whatever is left of his fortune. As the fate has it he wins an abandoned house and a vineyard an ocean away. Mauro Larrea travels to Andalusia de Jerez in Spain in order to sell the property and return to Mexico. But when he meets the unsettling Soledad Montalvo, the wife of a London wine merchant, everything changes for him. Soledad Montalvo bursts into his life unannounced. She is determined to protect her family’s legacy. Larrea finds himself immersed in the rich culture of the sherry trade. As his consuming passion for Soledad Montalvo keeps growing, he decides to restore the vineyard to its former glory. He has to travel from the turbulent young Mexican republic to flourishing Havana and onward to the fertile vineyards of Jerez. But what he does not realize is that he has to face family intrigues before he realizes his dream. Packed with despair, ambition, heartbreak, and love, and courage, this brilliantly written novel offers a lot more to the reader than most novels do. María Dueñas knows the art of weaving a spell-binding story in immaculate English.
María Dueñas, who holds a Ph.D. in English philology, published the New York Times bestselling novel The Time in Between in 2009, followed by The Heart Has Its Reasons in 2012. Both novels became international bestsellers and have been translated into thirty-five languages. The television adaptation of The Time in Between earned critical and international acclaim. The Vineyard is her third novel.