The author of Feast of Love returns with a novel about a Minneapolis couple that joins local activist group the Sun Collective while they are simultaneously in the midst of searching for their estranged son Tim. Christina, a young woman rapidly becoming addicted to a boutique drug that gives her a feeling of blessedness, is drawn to the same collective by a man who's convinced he may start a revolution.
That question hangs over Charles Baxter’s tense, wry and ultimately touching new novel, The Sun Collective, which vividly recreates the oscillating sense of dread familiar to anyone who hasn’t spent the last four years in a coma, or in Canada ... There is plenty of artful subtext in The Sun Collective, and a burning house or two. But, as with his sumptuous 2000 novel The Feast of Love (a finalist for the National Book Award), Baxter’s true gift is in describing the tender complexities of a relationship. Here, it’s the wistful, at times contentious, 'post-love”'of Harold and Alma, whose real problem might not be the times, but time, and their own senescence and mortality ... This is one of the dangers of writing fiction that aims to capture the current moment. The current moment is a slippery bugger, not inclined to wait for publishing schedules. After a summer of actual riots, of racial and social unrest over the very real and nonfuzzy, heart-rending issue of police violence against Black Americans, the simmering rebellion of the Sun Collective feels like a halfhearted thought experiment ... the novel continually builds poignancy by revealing that what Harold and Alma really long for is themselves at that age, when they had the passion of those young people cavorting across the park.
How strange it would be to have a grown child go missing in your own city. In Charles Baxter’s absorbing new novel, The Sun Collective, that heartbreaking strangeness is just one of many. Set in Minneapolis, Baxter’s fictional world intermixes the everyday and the uncanny ... The novel’s politics are all over the board, perhaps reflective of the fragmented lunacy of contemporary America ... I found myself at times frustrated by storytelling paths not taken, motivations unexplored ... Hints are dropped, but Baxter seems content not knowing all the answers, or maybe believing that motivations are no easier to fully comprehend than instances of everyday magic. His gift is to tune us into the beauty and the strangeness that walks among us, right here in river city.
Mr. Baxter continues to chip away at the myth of the Midwest’s innocence, probing the anarchy and fear that gape beneath the mown lawns and mini-malls ... The Sun Collective wobbles between the prosaic and the suburban ... the likeness that occurred to me is with Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels, where the underlying chaos is both concealed and somehow deepened by the inviting, mannerly prose. While Mr. Baxter is not as formally daring as Mr. Ishiguro, he possesses many of the same insights, not least about the mysteries of old age.