Wednesday, July 17, 2019

"Blue Hours"

Daphne Kalotay is the author of Calamity and Other Stories, which was short listed for the 2005 Story Prize. Her debut novel, Russian Winter, won the 2011 Writers’ League of Texas Fiction Prize, made the long list for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, was nominated for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and has been published in twenty-three foreign editions. Her second novel, Sight Reading, was a Boston Globe bestseller, a finalist for the 2014 Paterson Fiction Prize, and winner of the 2014 New England Society Book Award in Fiction. She has received fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the Bogliasco Foundation, MacDowell, and Yaddo. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Kalotay applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Blue Hours, and reported the following:
From page 69:
In the car the next day, heading back to the city, I stole a look at the sparkly diamond hanging at Kyra’s neck. I had only ever worn it that one time. “Is Roy the one who gave you that necklace?”

Kyra nodded, and I waited for her to offer up something more. “C’mon,” I said, “what’s the deal with you two?”

She said, “I guess I’m supposed to marry him.”

I looked at her face to see if she was serious. “Do you want to marry him?”

An odd little sigh. “You saw what he’s like. How can he keep living this way? He’s so removed from the rest of the world. I mean, even his job. ‘Personal investing.’ He manages his friends’ brokerage accounts!” I expected her to laugh, but she looked like she might cry. “I had a mad crush on him growing up. Then the summer after my freshman year of college, we finally got together. That lasted about a year. But he was already done with college, and then—” She gave a little rustle of her shoulders, as if shaking something off. “I don’t know.”

“Well, I mean, do you love him?”
Some background: The narrator, Mim, has just graduated from college and moved to NYC, where she is roommates with Kyra, a rich girl from Newport, Rhode Island. In this micro-scene, they are returning from a weekend at Kyra’s mother’s house, where Mim thought she was getting to know Kyra better—only to be surprised by the materialization of a young man named Roy, whom Kyra had never mentioned.

This snippet presents a small-scale version of the themes that return in a global way in the book’s second half. For one thing, the book is a love story. It’s also about the peculiar American “privilege” of ignoring the traumas of the greater world. We see those themes introduced here in Kyra’s dismay over Roy’s aloofness due to his rich-boy comfort, her sense of fatalism when asked about their relationship (which is in a way our American version of an arranged marriage), and the mystery of why their romance ended. In a way, Mim and Roy will become rivals. And though the characters don’t know it yet, Kyra will devote herself to a life of humanitarian aid work. When, twenty years later, Kyra goes missing abroad, Mim and Roy—who haven’t spoken to each other in two decades—will join forces to try to find her.
Learn more about the book and author at Daphne Kalotay's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sight Reading.

--Marshal Zeringue