After hearing that it was set in my beloved Los Angeles suburb of Silver Lake, I was absolutely delighted to read Peter Gadol’s latest novel. Against a backdrop of the Silver Lake Reservoir, the water always “an unforgiving blue,” Robbie Voight and Carlo Stein live a quiet and reclusive life, unaware that a
surreptitious young stranger will soon expose their deepest wounds.
Over the years, Robbie and Carlo have assimilated the lessons of love and of marriage. Both are architects who own their own firm and specialize in transforming the local neighborhood houses around the Lake - their own glass house looks out over the picaresque Silver Lake Reservoir. There has, however, been a dark anxiety of late, related to work, income and debt,
along with a restlessness that neither man can seem to shake.
This anxiety escalates into a powerful force when Tom Field, a mercurial twenty-something drifter,
enters their lives. A map enthusiast with a gift for portraiture, this man with wanderlust in his heart has recently moved to Los Angeles to seek both escape and rescue.
Optimistic Robbie takes an instant liking to this handsome young man, inviting him to tennis and later to dinner at their house,
where both men try to encourage Tom’s confidences. But even though the three settle into a comfortable evening, there’s something strange about Tom: he’s clearly having a good time, but he drinks to much and tells violent stories. Carlo has an uneasiness about the boy that never seems to abate.
Carlo decides to take Tom at his word that he’s just shown up by chance and wants nothing,
but what follows in early morning plunges Robbie and Carlo into a devastating nightmare of guilt, lies and recrimination. Tom’s selfish actions cause Robbie and Carlo’s world view to be altered as the past follows Carlo like a dark cloud and Robbie’s life with him
comes into question.
In the aftermath, Robbie makes a discovery in the form of a palm-sized, gilt-edged address book and starts to enquire into Tom’s past. Carlos finds it difficult to adjust and becomes obsessed with the truth of a violent carjacking. Yet Carlos has failed to come clean to Robbie about the aftermath of that terrible, fateful night and finds himself lying
first to Robbie then to the police about his past associations with Tom.
Gadol’s perfectly-pitched and controlled narrative builds around the cost of lies, the price of love, and the bitter ramifications of loneliness when all of us are so “tenuously linked yet disconnected.” Of course, true adultery begins with “a quickened heart” and the “sudden switched on heat of infidelity.” Not surprisingly, the Lake itself looms over these men. With its shifting variegations and many indigo ponds within its cobalt basin, the water remains a powerful symbol for Robbie and Carlo as they’re ambushed by deceitfulness, blindsided by their lies, and trapped by their unfamiliar feelings.