The New York Times, John Williams:
"Stub, the boy introduced at the beginning of Rikki Ducornet’s dark, elliptical fairy tale of a novel, is “a good child, far too good for his own safety.” He “doesn’t know he’s lonely and that his fear is not of his making, that it will haunt him for the rest of his life.” His live-in babysitter and his troubled mother both leave the family abruptly when he’s a child, and his father is eventually “conquered by his frayed nerves.” As a teenager, Stub ends up living as a reclusive vagrant at the nearby college where his father had worked in maintenance, hiding out in the library and a biology lab. He doggedly researches the eccentric work of an artist and writer named Verner Vanderloon, and becomes enchanted with a local 8-year-old girl named Asthma. There are obvious echoes of “Lolita” in Stub’s obsession with Asthma: “A name that is soft on the tongue, that, like cotton candy, dissolves. My own fairy child,” he says at one point. And later: “Go in peace, my little bell, my little snail, my little seaside pail; Asthma the salt, the surf of my soul.” But despite the creepy tension, his interest in her is ultimately presented as a longing for the foreclosed possibilities of his own lost childhood. He befriends and moves in with a lonely professor who mistakenly believes that Stub is a Fulbright scholar at the school. More for fans of atmosphere than fans of plot, Ms. Ducornet’s novel about a man who “cannot fathom the bottomless secret of his own existence” casts a lingering spell."
"[a] dark, elliptical fairy tale of a novel..."