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Martin Sloane


Martin Sloane

Martin Sloane is an artist. His works consist of collages of found objects carefully crafted into scenes and images of rare emotional resonance. They are clever creations, inspired by his childhood in Ireland and Canada, but art is not Martin Sloane's main talent. The skill that truly defines him is his knack for disappearing.

The story is partially told from the point of view of Jolene Iolas, a much younger woman who is romantically involved with Martin until he walks out of her house in the middle of the night, never to be seen again.

What drove him away? Was it her insistence that he move in with her? Or did her emotionally needy friend Molly, visiting the couple for the first time in years, reveal something he found unbearable? Molly also abandons Jolene that night and does not speak to her for the next 10 years. Despite the sense of bereftness Jolene carries from the early death of her mother, she rallies quite well from her desertion. Then the two people she's closest to in the world walk out of her life on the same night with no explanation, yet she manages to contain her pain and confusion and form a life for herself in Canada. She goes to Toronto looking for signs of Martin but she does not find him there. Instead, she takes a teaching job, gets an apartment and starts dating. Her life seems practically normal until she hears from Molly, who summons her to Ireland saying she knows where Martin is.

Interspersed with scenes from the estranged friends' trip are scenes from Martin's childhood. He is by far the most interesting character, and the most engaging parts of the book are those that show how Martin copes with illness and family misfortune, slowly learning the lesson that those he loves would be better off without him. Like Martin's art, this is a careful, detailed book. It explores in depth the question: Can we ever really know those we love? Given the ease of abandonment, should we even bother to try?

There isn't much reconciliation in this book. The three main characters, Martin, Jolene, and Molly, circle each other and go away again, yet they never seem to learn anything from their experiences; their relationships are always the same, no matter how many years go by between meetings. It never seems to occur to Jolene to blame herself, and she can't even guess what's behind her double abandonment. She's deeply hurt and inflicted with a confusion that must color her future relationships, but she is no better able to plot out the cause and effect of her own behavior than she was when she sought Martin in her college years. She doesn't know why she follows Molly to Ireland or what she would do if she actually found her lost lover. Perhaps unsurprising for a character with so little interest in introspection, her journey brings her, and the reader, more questions than answers.

Reviewed by Colleen Quinn ( on January 22, 2011

Martin Sloane
by Michael Redhill

  • Publication Date: March 8, 2013
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316739367
  • ISBN-13: 9780316739368