Book Review: Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives

Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher: Penguin Press

Summary:   Stella Krakus, a curator at Manhattan's renowned Central Museum of Art, is having the roughest week in approximately ever. Her soon-to-be ex-husband (the perfectly awful Whit Ghiscolmbe) is stalking her, a workplace romance with "a fascinating, hyper-rational narcissist" is in freefall, and a beloved colleague, Paul, has gone missing. Strange things are afoot: CeMArt's current exhibit is sponsored by a Belgian multinational that wants to take over the world's water supply, she unwittingly stars in a viral video that's making the rounds, and her mother--the imperious, impossibly glamorous Caro--wants to have lunch. It's almost more than she can overanalyze. 

But the appearance of a mysterious map, depicting a 19th-century utopian settlement, sends Stella--a dogged expert in American graphics and fluidomanie (don't ask)--on an all-consuming research mission. As she teases out the links between a haunting poem, several unusual novels, a counterfeiting scheme, and one of the museum's colorful early benefactors, she discovers the unbearable secret that Paul's been keeping, and charts a course out of the chaos of her own life. Pulsing with neurotic humor and dagger-sharp prose, Impossible Views of the World is a dazzling debut novel about how to make it through your early thirties with your brain and heart intact.

Stella Krakus is having a rough week and is in the midst of an existential crisis (personal & professional). Her soon to be ex-husband, Whit, is being difficult, she's also at a confusing crossroads with her occasional hook up and colleague, Fred. Her mother is adding to the pile by simply being herself and then there's the small matter of Paul, a colleague who was as much a work friend as Stella has, that's gone missing though no one at CeMArt seems much to care or at most, tepidly worry. There's also a foreboding looming encroachment of the corporatization & conglomeratization of the museum by WANSEE.

It is this mystery of what's happened to Paul (and then what he'd been doing before his end) that most pulled me through this story. I loved following Stella's trail of research (obscure books are connected to an obscure map and that map figures into a larger situation at the museum that has roots a good bit in the past and more obscure works). Add to that Stella's very clear voice, wry wit in the telling and tangential observations, I quite enjoyed this story. I found many passages that were highlight worthy and am a little sorry that I can't quote them here but it's worth mentioning just the same. The author definitely has a talent for lyrical prose and I appreciated that. The only thing I didn't find terribly compelling was Fred and I never quite understood Stella's fascination or attraction unless it was that he was purposely unattainable & emotionally unavailable to her, but it was good to see her get past him. I very much liked that without knowing it, Stella needed the journey of tracing Paul's trail to work out her own stuff and by the end she's in a better place than she began. Well done.

This read like a love letter to archivists and curators everywhere (cartographers, microcalligraphers, logophiles and those who love puzzles and puns, this is for you too). If that happens to be your thing (it's my thing) then go forth and enjoy. Also, I'd recommend this to literary fiction fans that also enjoy a bit of mystery.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for my views. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley.

Publishing date August 1, 2017

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