- Print Length: 624 pages
- Publisher: Harper (May 5, 2015)
As summer draws to a close, a small Long Island town is plagued by a series of mysterious deaths— and one young man, a loner taken in by a local, tries to piece together the crimes before his own time runs out.
Orient is an isolated hamlet on the North Fork of Long Island—a quiet, historic village that swells each summer with vacationers, Manhattan escapees, and wealthy young artists from the city with designs on local real estate. On the last day of summer, a teenage drifter named Mills Chevern arrives in town. Soon after, the village is rocked by a series of unsettling events: the local caretaker is found floating lifeless in the ocean; an elderly neighbor dies under mysterious circumstances; and a monstrous animal corpse is discovered on the beach not far from a research lab often suspected of harboring biological experiments. Before long, other more horrific events plunge the community into a spiral of paranoia.
As the village struggles to make sense of the wave of violence, anxious eyes settle on the mysterious Mills, a troubled orphan with no family, a hazy history, and unknown intentions. But he finds one friend in Beth, an Orient native in retreat from Manhattan, who is determined to unravel the mystery before the small town devours itself.
Suffused with tension, rich with character and a haunting sense of lives suspended against an uncertain future, Orient is both a galvanic thriller and a provocative portrait of the dark side of the American dream: an idyllic community where no one is safe. It marks the emergence of a novelist of enormous talent.
Buy, read, and discuss Orient
Christopher Bollen is an editor at large for Interview magazine. He is the author of the novel Lightning People, and his work has appeared in GQ, the New York Times, the Believer, and Artforum, among other publications. He lives in New York.
Find out more about Christopher at his website.
I had a hard time sinking into this book, at first, in part because I’d just read two cozy, beachy novels back to back, and was still in that mindset. Once I reminded myself that this was a thriller that just happened to be set in a shore town, I went back and re-read the opening pages, and found myself much more into the novel. Who says there aren’t different reading moods?
I was expecting Mills, the young man (referred to as a ‘teen drifter’ in the blurbs, but at nineteen he’s really more a young adult) to be the POV person for the whole novel, so when author Bollen kept introducing us to more and more new characters, and letting us see inside their heads, it was a little confusing. Eventually, though, I found myself really enjoying his writing style, which blends all the best of contemporary mystery/thrillers with a truly literary penchant for description and psychodrama.
I also found that his style made me much more likely to alter my perceptions of characters as I got to know them. The central character, Beth, was one I really disliked upon first ‘meeting’ but by the end of the book, I really wanted her to solve the mystery and succeed at something. I love it when writers can do that, and Bollen has a knack for making plots twist on a dime in a way that is really quite delicious.
If you read the cover blurb for this novel and assume that because it’s set in a summer beach town it will be light on mystery and heavy on soap-y drama, you will be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you are ready to sink into a deep, dark literary thriller, you will find yourself riveted through all 600 pages of this novel.
This is the author’s debut novel, and I really hope Bollen’s agents and editors appreciate his distinct voice, because we need to hear more from this writer, and I fear that commercial success will cause him to change the way he writes, which would be a pity.
Goes well with Atlantic blue fish, fresh caught, and grilled on the beach, Jersey tomatoes marinated in salt and lemon, and a crisp summer ale. Sam Adams will do in a pinch.
Tuesday, April 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, April 10th: As I turn the pages
Monday, April 13th: BoundbyWords
Tuesday, April 14th: Bibliotica – That’s ME!
Wednesday, April 15th: A Bookworm’s World
Monday, April 20th: The Discerning Reader
Tuesday, April 21st: Books and Things
Wednesday, April 22nd: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, April 23rd: A Dream Within a Dream
Monday, April 27th: Open Book Society
Tuesday, April 28th: Kissin Blue Karen
Friday, May 1st: Wordsmithonia
Monday, May 4th: Ace and Hoser Blook
Wednesday, May 6th: My Bookish Ways
Thursday, May 7th: Living in the Kitchen with Puppies