Well, I took a chance on Mark Sarvas’ Memento Park and I’m elated that I did ... In the end, this is a powerful meditation on the power of love, family bonds and romantic relationships ... Every good book should make you want to do something like this. This is one of them.
Voice is key in a monologue, and Sarvas' narrator does raise doubts. His long, self-lacerating monologue is filled with portentous hints about what's to come, including in his relationships with his stunning blonde fiancée, a swimsuit model, and his devout lawyer. The tone feels fusty for a thirty-something, and overly erudite for a mediocre student who quit college his freshman year, even taking into account his efforts to 'plug up the potholes' of his 'scattershot education.'
The father-son scenes are among the most moving in the novel. Sarvas is astute in portraying how relationships can calcify in childhood, and the exquisite pain of attempting to repair them in adulthood. But he falters in his depiction of Matt’s relationships with women ... While Sarvas seems well aware he’s using clichés, awareness alone doesn’t make them interesting ... The book stayed with me, though. Sarvas tackles big questions — about what constitutes restitution, the nature of faith, the essential role of storytelling in our lives. A twist at the end, the book’s ultimate con, is too good to spoil, and left me rethinking the characters and the story. It’s a testament to Sarvas’s skill that such a trick felt like a gift.
Sarvas has created a gripping, twisty mystery that deftly tackles big questions — about the weight of history, the intricacies of identity, the often anguished love between parents and children — but its limited protagonist can only grasp at their answers.
...throughout the novel, Sarvas allows his characters moments of self-reflection, ultimately asking if one can continue life’s dance when one has failed to learn the steps ... As its protagonist puzzles over his identity, his relationships, and the painter Erwin Kàlmàn’s troubled past, Memento Park assembles these pieces into a satisfying whole.
Sarvas couples a suspenseful mystery with nuanced meditations on father-son bonds, the intricacies of identity, the aftershocks of history’s horrors, and the ways people and artworks can—perhaps even must—be endlessly reinterpreted.