At a Manhattan planetarium in 1965, ten-year-old Enzo is whisked away from his young adoptive aunt, Mala. His abductor turns out to be a blood relative: his great-uncle Junius Samax, a wealthy former gambler who lives in a converted Las Vegas hotel surrounded by a priceless art collection and a host of fascinating, idiosyncratic guests. In Samax’s magical world, Enzo receives a unique education and pieces together the mystery of his mother’s life and the complicated history of his adoption.
Back in New York, Mala only knows that Enzo has disappeared. After a yearlong search proves fruitless, she enlists in the Navy Nursing Corps and on a hospital ship off Vietnam falls in love with a wounded B-52 navigator, who disappears on his next mission. Devastated again, Mala embarks on a restless, adventurous journey around the world, hoping to overcome the losses that have transformed her life.
Fusing imagination, scholarship, and suspense with remarkable narrative skill, Nicholas Christopher builds a story of tremendous scope, an epic tale of love and destiny, as he traces the intricate latticework of Mala’s and Enzo’s lives. Each remains separate from each other but tied in ways they cannot imagine—until the final miraculous chapter of this extraordinary novel.
A Trip to the Stars is an epic in the truest sense of the world – it tells the story of multiple journeys across the globe, and beyond, and the intersections of our lives that have a profound impact on ourselves and our future. And, it contains some elements of magical realism, one of my favourite literary genres.
While I admired the sheer imaginative scope of this novel – it was like travelling the world from the comfort of my own bed – I felt a detachment from the prose, like an outsider looking in. Part of the reason is that most of the story is narrated to us by the two main characters, which means that there’s a lot more telling and a lot less showing. So as much as I could enjoy this ambitious book, I could never truly get into it.
The novel includes everything from astronomy to history and folk tales to the study of spiders – it’s an absolute amalgamation of everything that makes the world interesting. The characters themselves are quite self-destructive in their own way, and dare I say – vain?
Nevertheless, if you’re looking for something outside of your usual fare, then give this one a go. It can be a challenging read at times, but oh how well worth it for the way things come together in the end.