Click here to read reviewer Regan Windsor's take on Divisadero.
Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero deftly weaves together past and the present, fact and fiction, in an unforgettable story about two worlds connected by a delicate thread of reality.
Divisadero is the name of the San Francisco street on which Anna, one of the novel's main characters, lives. Nothing critical in the novel actually happens there, and Anna only mentions the street name in passing, but Divisadero is what divides the characters and ultimately brings them together.
The novel begins on a Petaluma farm in the 1970s, with Anna's narrative. She lives with her widowed father (her mother died in childbirth) and two other orphaned children who were taken in by her parents. One is Coop, and older boy who comes to live and work on the family farm when his parents are murdered. Claire, the other orphan, is around Anna's age and is being raised as Anna's sister.
The two girls idolize Coop, persuading him to take them into town for dances, and the two teenage girls begin to compete for his attention. It's no big surprise that sooner or later a dalliance of some sort will happen, as none of the siblings are actually related by blood. But Anna's sexual awakening with Coop turns into a dark tragedy and changes everyone's lives forever.
The next section of the novel takes place in the 1990s in Tahoe, where Claire and Coop unexpectedly run into each other. Coop is making a dangerous living as a poker player. Anna has become a writer in France and is researching the life and work of an obscure French writer named Lucien Segura. Yet another narrative in the book recounts the life of Segura in France in the early part of the 20th century.
This novel doesn’t deliver a fast-paced plot with an easy resolution, but if you are looking for a gorgeously written book that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it, Divisadero is it.