LOST PATH TO SOLITUDE
(A Follow-Up to Dogs With Bagels)
Maria Elena Sandovici
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Date of Publication: February 12, 2016
# of pages: 315
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Once you leave home, can you ever return? Two characters, mother and daughter, contemplate this question in Lost Path to Solitude. Twenty-five years after leaving Romania in order to follow the man she loves to New York, Maria Pop still struggles with accepting her decision. She is determined to go back and recapture the poetry and joy of life in Bucharest, even at the expense of risking her marriage. Meanwhile, her daughter, Liliana, second-guesses her own choice of moving to a small town in Southeast Texas, ironically called Solitude, where she finds herself lonely, bored, and nostalgic for the fast pace of life in New York City. Facing the claustrophobic social climate of a town that goes to bed early, as well as the constrictions of her emerging academic career, Liliana longs for something that would give her existence meaning. The parallel soul-searching and the frustration they experience does little to bring mother and daughter closer. Instead, as each struggles with finding her own place in the world, they become increasingly critical of each other. Will their relationship survive the growing pains they each must suffer in their quest for self-fulfillment?
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Initially, skimming through this book I thought it was going to be a disappointment in reading because it appeared as an unpleasant mishmash of various writing being pulled together. I also had my reservations because I had not read the previous book.
After I started reading “Lost Path to Solitude” these preliminary impressions were laid to rest. The author weaves this follow-up journey of 10 years later to “Dogs with Bagels” exceptionally well and you really don’t need to read the first novel to get enveloped in this story. The complex characters each have their own paths to follow in life, and Sandovici skillfully tells their stories. The story switches often between characters and places, but the writing is done so well that you don’t lose track of the story being told.
What struck me about this novel is that we all have self-doubt of various degrees in our lives. Dealing with that doubt makes who we become. The main characters journeys of the mother and daughter are told in such a way I related to in a personal sense. It’s a story of the journey of finding yourself whether it’s in New York, a small Texas town, or a foreign country. While most of us can never imagine living or dying in one place, most of us has a drive to want to change the world for the better for others and ourselves.
The Galveston Island descriptions are perfectly told as if I was revisiting the island myself again (which I’ve not done in years) – from the ferry ride to staying at the Tremont House Hotel. That indicates to me that the other place descriptions on Romania and New York are accurate. The book spoke personally to me because of my own wanderlust and need for something more in my life, because there is life outside of small town Texas where people actually know what kale is. Discovering that linden tea and rose water ice cream really exist is exciting for me to eventually try.
As the book continues its story to its last words, you as a reader know as these characters discover that you cannot ever go back in time to a former life, memories can be overpowering, and to live in this life you have to move on.
Maria Elena Sandovici moved to Texas on a Greyhound bus in the summer of 2005. It would be the beginning of a great adventure. Born in Bucharest, Romania, a place she loves and where she returns often, she’d spend the requisite time in Manhattan to call herself a New Yorker, but also to know she was looking for something else. Her debut novel, Dogs with Bagels, is very much a New York story: the story of an immigrant family forging new identities for themselves in the city that never sleeps.
Her second novel, Stray Dogs and Lonely Beaches, is the story of a young woman traveling the world in search of herself. This theme persists in Lost Path to Solitude, her third novel, in which characters suffering an identity crisis are caught in a search for the ideal place to call home. Three locales dominate the story: New York City, Bucharest, and an imaginary, caricaturized town in Southeast Texas, called Solitude.
In addition to writing fiction, Maria Elena Sandovici paints every day. She has a studio at Hardy and Nance Studios in Houston, and also shows her daily watercolors on her blog, Have Watercolors Will Travel, accompanied by essays about whatever inspires or obsesses her at any given moment.
To support her art and writing, she teaches Political Science at Lamar University. She is also the well-behaved human of a feisty little dog.
Her favorite places in Texas are Houston and Galveston.
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May 23 – June 1, 2016
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