Memento Park (2018)
Finalist for the 2019 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature
Winner of the 2019 American Jewish Libraries Association Fiction Award
Shortlisted for the JQ Wingate Literary Prize
Longlisted for the Sophie Brody Medal
"While Sarvas’s book is full of cunningly prepared surprises, it is also a fundamentally thoughtful and meditative story, whose real plot is Matt’s achievement of a kind of perspective on his past. “It’s possible to spend an entire lifetime looking at something, and even then, to fail to behold it in any meaningful way,” he reflects at the beginning of the book, and the hidden purpose of the painting is to teach him to see clearly — not just art, but life itself." - Adam Kirsch, The Washington Post
" ... sly, searching ... Sarvas is astute in portraying how relationships can calcify in childhood, and the exquisite pain of attempting to repair them in adulthood ... Sarvas tackles big questions — about what constitutes restitution, the nature of faith, the essential role of storytelling in our lives. A twist at the end, the book’s ultimate con, is too good to spoil ... It’s a testament to Sarvas’s skill that such a trick felt like a gift." - The New York Times Book Review
" ... a psychologically rich portrait of family discord." - Newsday
"... an absorbing drama ... compelling ... captivating ... Memento Park is ultimately about the mutability of memories and understanding, and an exhortation to really pay attention — while realizing how much you may miss regardless." - NPR
“Sarvas is an expert at depicting the dualities of the immigrant experience. … Memento Parkassembles these pieces into a satisfying whole.” - Zyzzyva
“Mark Sarvas's second novel leaps well beyond his first one into a spectacular realm of imagination and daring. Memento Park has everything in precisely the right proportions: pace, plot, suspense, intricate characters and meditations on the loneliness of a secular Jewish life that are heartfelt. … Sarvas's novel is a literary tour de force of the highest order.” - The Jerusalem Post
"A riveting story―and, in Sarvas’s able hands, artfully told ... Sarvas has created a gripping, twisty mystery that deftly tackles big questions — about the weight of history, the intricacies of identity, the often anguished love between parents and children ..." - Barnes & Noble Review
A son learns more about his father than he ever could have imagined when a mysterious piece of art is unexpectedly restored to him
After receiving an unexpected call from the Australian consulate, Matt Santos becomes aware of a painting that he believes was looted from his family in Hungary during the Second World War. To recover the painting, he must repair his strained relationship with his harshly judgmental father, uncover his family history, and restore his connection to his own Judaism. Along the way to illuminating the mysteries of his past, Matt is torn between his girlfriend Tracy and his attorney Rachel, with whom he travels to Budapest to unearth the truth about the painting and, in turn, his family.
As his journey progresses, Matt’s revelations are accompanied by equally consuming and imaginative meditations on the painting and the painter at the center of his personal drama, Budapest Street Scene by Ervin Kálmán. By the time Memento Park reaches its conclusion, Matt’s narrative is as much about family history and father-son dynamics as it is about the nature of art itself, and the infinite ways we come to understand ourselves through it.
Of all the questions asked by Mark Sarvas’s Memento Park―about family and identity, about art and history―a central, unanswerable predicament lingers: How do we move forward when the past looms unreasonably large?
PRAISE FOR MEMENTO PARK:
“Mark Sarvas has written a gripping mystery novel about art that is also a powerful meditation on fathers and sons, and the need to face up to the falsehoods spawned by the horror of the past." - Salman Rushdie
"In Mark Sarvas’ elegant, poignant, and intellectually arresting novel, the attempts to reclaim a painting seized by the Nazis opens up into a moving story about a father’s desire to bury his past and a son’s to claim it. Propelled by the intrigue of mystery and suffused with a knowing humor, the novel explores the vagaries of historical memory, the ways in which identity is equal parts inheritance and invention, and the delusions of ownership. Memento Park’s reach is wide and its concerns profound. " - Marisa Silver, author of Little Nothing and Mary Coin
"A thrilling, ceaselessly intelligent investigation into the crime known as history." - Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland and The Dog
"What does the next generation carry forward, and why is it so compelling? In his powerful novel MEMENTO PARK, Mark Sarvas explores the essential questions of history and its burdens and legacies. The gifted novelist Sarvas takes you by the hand and tells you the important story you need to hear." - Min Jin Lee, National Book Award finalist author of PACHINKO
"Sarvas’s rich and engaging second novel is worth the decade’s wait since his first ... Sarvas couples a suspenseful mystery with nuanced meditations on father-son bonds, the intricacies of identity, the aftershocks of history’s horrors, and the ways people and artworks can—perhaps even must—be endlessly reinterpreted." - Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW
"Because of its scope and deft handling of aspects of identity in matters of love, family, religion, and loss, this literary work is highly recommended to the broadest audience." - Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
"Sarvas ... has delivered a lively, thoughtful, psychologically compelling novel about the ties that bind, and the ties that fail to ... skillful prose and well-drawn characters." - Kirkus Reviews