Adam O’Fallon Price Opens the Great Hotel
Each individual person has a history of their own which can be traced back quite far, probably to the days even before their birth. However, there is always a limit to how much you can uncover and how much of the past will open up to you when studying a single person. For this reason, there are many people, me included, who see the study of families as being not only more interesting, but also much more revealing. The legacies families leave behind are more often than not filled with the unexpected, as is the case for the Sikorsky family in Adam O’Fallon Price’s The Hotel Neversink.
This relatively extensive book begins all the way back in 1931 with Asher Sikorsky, the man who set everything into motion with his grandiose ambitions and purchased the titular hotel. Once it finally opens to the public, a tragedy strikes which will mark the family for generations to come: a young boy mysteriously vanishes. We watch Asher struggle to achieve the greatness he coveted for so long, paying a steep price many times for his schemes and machinations.
No matter how important one person might be, they are still subjected to the devastation of age the same way as everyone else… and in Asher’s case, there was someone to take up the reigns in his stead, his daughter Jeanie. Her path is destined to be different from her father’s, witnessing the hotel both at its most glorious and darkest moments, trying to tame the great beast passed on to her. Decades later, Asher’s grandchildren find their turn has come to take up the torch, and while Len fights tooth and nail to keep the old dilapidated hotel still alive, Alice sets out to solve the mystery which plagued their family for years on end: the vanishing of the young boy.
The Roller-coaster of Hotel Ownership
While I am personally not averse to the multiple narrators technique, I am often wary of it going into novels as not every author knows how to handle this type of decision without making it overly complex or confusing. Thankfully, Price tackled this matter in the best way possible, one which actually engaged me further into the book. While we do often switch narrators, the story always keeps on advancing in a chronological order, so our transitions are very easy to keep up with and always feel quite logical.
As a boon, having so many different people as narrators allows us to explore many different perspectives which shed varying lights on the family’s history. None of them ever have the time to become boring or annoying, and while it is true I wish some characters would have been developed more profoundly, I also understand doing such a thing would have compromised the pace of the book and probably made some characters less appealing than they are now. Just to give you a bit of a preview as to the people we’ll be meeting, there’s the patriarch himself, a matriarch, a maid at the hotel, a detective, a comedian, and we’re only at the tip of the iceberg.
The part of the story which revolves around the hotel ownership is very much a family drama, with a few heavier moments which give off an eerie feeling, but nothing graphic or shocking. Instead, the author relies on his ability to connect his various characters and their agendas to keep our interest going, to make us care about what they are trying to achieve.
The Mystery of the Boy
Though a large chunk of this book is indeed dedicated to the hotel and the many people who have graced it over the years, the disappearance of the young boy I mentioned a couple of times also takes up a rather major role in the story. We keep coming back to it from time to time, and as a reader I often found myself trying to connect the tiniest and most insignificant dots in an attempt to solve the mystery before our characters did. I will just say it is possible to make the correct deductions, which is always a big plus in the book when it comes to murder mystery.
Even if it isn’t your cup of tea and not what you’re in this book for, it definitely helps to inject an additional dose of curiosity into the atmosphere. After all, with a story which takes place from 1931 all the way to 2012, it never hurts to have a few subjects for diversification. Perhaps even more importantly, it serves as an event which defines or sheds more light on some characters and their personalities as we get to see their reactions to the event, the investigation which followed… and the subsequent child disappearances. I really don’t want to spoil any more of this side of the book, so I will simply leave it at this.
While so far I may have made the book sound fairly grim, I do want to assure you it is written with a brilliant touch of dark humour, a tragicomedy of sorts, if you will. As we explore the family and the murder mystery the author still finds plenty of opportunities to make us both laugh and feel for the characters we are briefly following.
The Final Verdict
The Hotel Neversink by Adam O’Fallon Price is one of the more unique and remarkable books I have had the pleasure of reading recently, adeptly bringing to life a grand hotel, the family who owned it for generations, and the curious mystery of vanishing children. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys family sagas, especially when combined with a murder mystery.
Adam O’Fallon Price is an American author who earned his MFA at Cornell University, currently living in North Carolina and working as a teacher. His first two published works were The Grand tour in 2016 and more recently The Hotel Neversink in 2019.