The Changeling: the changing road to nowhere

The Changeling: the long and winding road to nowhere   a review

Lavalles's The Changeling book coverThe Changeling, a novel by Victor LaValle and set in today’s New York City, is a dark fantasy like the grimmest of fairy tales. Despite its urban setting, the plot of The Changeling follows a torturous path of omens and hints, illusion and lies. Unfortunately, the novel’s ending belongs to another fantasy altogether. The ending seems unrelated to what happens before. Like the glass slipper and the stepsister’s foot, the fit is all wrong.

I admire LaValle’s no frills prose and was impressed by the sense of disorientation I shared with Apollo, his protagonist.

As I read Apollo’s history, his parents and their relationship, how he came to love and sell old books and the story of his new marriage and child, I settled in. The simplicity of the story and its appealing characters kept me turning the pages.

Then an abrupt change in the narrative of The Changeling knocked my socks off.

Apollo loses his child in the most horrific way I can imagine. Since I had already bonded with Apollo’s character, I identified with his desperation and the horror of his loss. Bewildered and unprepared, Apollo struggles to make sense of what happened. And why did his wife become someone else, then disappear? Was it his fault? Did the photos of his son, the ones he took and emailed cause the unimaginable? There were other photos, not taken by him, inexplicable images. Who took them? Apollo begins his journey in search of answers.

I followed Apollo down the rabbit hole of inner city reality and a nightmarish fantasy world.

His story mesmerized me until the trails and plot lines led to nowhere. Important characters like the island witches abruptly disappeared with little to no resolution, their compelling stories untold. Despite the novel’s supernatural underpinnings, the story’s end, in my opinion, was nonsensical and a disappointment. On the whole, the resolution did not live up to its beginning, Unfortunately, despite its great beginning and an appealing protagonist, The Changeling morphed from riveting, to confusing until finally it betrayed its promise.

Still, I’m open to reading more of LaValle’s spare, elegant prose.

I plan to explore his other novels, where perhaps other lost children and “wild things” await discovery.

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