There's mystery throughout Steven Lewis's new novel Loving Violet,, of the universal sort. How will our choices impact our grandchildren? Why do we love the ones we love? Is there such a thing as objective truth in marriage?
Lewis, father of seven and grandfather to a constantly expanding tribe who call him "Chief," is way too much novelist to attempt pat answers. He picks up his chronicle of the Tevis family 13 years after the death of Robert, the curmudgeonly demihero of his 2015 novel Take This. Robert's grandson Aaron is utterly bedazzled by Violet, with her blond ringlets and pink lips, his partner in a grad school orientation exercise in which they swap two-minute autobiographies. Entranced by her loveliness, he barely hears what she says, and tells her of a night when he realized he inhabited the spirit of the grandfather he barely knew—a realization he's invented on the spot to add spice, but swiftly decides must be true.
Mysterious, duplicitous, and wildly talented, Violet spins Aaron's world around as they navigate literate young adulthood. Aaron's life is upended when his grandmother is injured in Costa Rica, his cantankerous grandfather's final destination on a mind-bending road trip, and he finds himself in the bosom of his fractured, yet curiously expanded family of origin, surrounded by the lively women of his late grandfather's world.
Aaron and Violet find their way to Costa Rica as her writing career goes stratospheric, and their daughter Esme will grow up there. There's no earthly paradise in sight for this third generation of the Tevis line; not in marriage and monogamy, not in New York or Costa Rica. But when lives and families crack along their fault lines, there's still love to be had, just not as expected. Such is maturity.
The mystery Lewis explores lacks final solutions, but its unfolding is beautiful, unsettling, and edifying nonetheless, making Loving Violet a great read for anyone intrigued by the ties that bind, and fray, and bind nonetheless.