The tales we tell, whether true or imagined, contain an abundance of details that drive others (and ourselves) to either believe or discredit us. When there are multiple stories on the same subject coming from one source, such as in Paul La Farge’s The Night Ocean, it’s difficult to determine which is the truth.
Charlie Willett is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and his life, so much so that he’s been researching a particular time span further based on the smallest of clues that many would discredit simply as a stretch. Once Charlie goes missing, presumed dead after having supposedly swum into a lake, his wife Marina, a psychiatrist, picks up Charlie’s investigation in order to figure out what might have happened to him as a means to gain understanding and closure. Through this, Marina learns more about her husband’s obsession, and all things and people related to Lovecraft, no matter how tangental they might seem.
Narratively, this story is layered in a way to both build a case and trust while also breaking it down at the same time, which was entertaining and engaging to read. Marina takes the clues provided from her husband’s research, follows up for more information on them where needed, and then provides her own analysis of potential rationale behind various actions or thoughts, which helps to provide a more clinical view of what might otherwise be taken at face value as a most fantastic truth. The various formats of telling the story through interviews, journal entries, conversations, and others was a good way to break up what otherwise might have been a tedium of recalled conversations in this lengthy tome.
Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.