Summary and book reviews of Bay of Souls by Robert Stone

Bay of Souls

By Robert Stone

Bay of Souls
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2003,
    256 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2004,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

Robert Stone’s remarkable new novel is a psychological thriller of razor-sharp intensity: mysterious, erotic, and deeply readable. Michael Ahearn, a professor at a rural college, sheds his comfortable assumptions when he becomes obsessed with a new faculty member from the Caribbean, Lara Purcell. An expert in Third World politics, Lara is seductive, dangerous — and in thrall, she claims, to a voodoo spirit who has taken possession of her soul. Impassioned and determined, Michael pursues Lara to her native island of St. Trinity, heedless of the political upheaval there. Together they desperately attempt to reclaim all that Lara has lost. Yet island intrigue ensnares them. Lara sacrifices herself to ritual and superstition. Michael is caught unawares in a high-stakes smuggling scheme. In his feverish state of mind, the world becomes an ever-shifting phantasmagoria. He is, himself, possessed. In Bay of Souls, readers will recognize the trademarks of Stone’s greatest fiction: the American embroiled in Third World corruption, the diplomats and covert operatives, the idealists and opportunists. Yet here the author’s sights are set inward, to a place where politics is superfluous, experience unreliable. Never before has Stone probed so powerfully the psychological depths of one man’s mind. What he finds there defies expectations.

Chapter 1

By gad, sir," Michael Ahearn said to his son, Paul, "you present a distressing spectacle."

A few nights earlier they had watched The Maltese Falcon together. Paul, who had never seen it before, was delighted by his father’s rendering of Sydney Greenstreet. Sometimes he would even try doing Greenstreet himself.

"By gad, sir!"

Paul’s attempts at movie voices were not subtle but commanded inflections normally beyond the comic repertory of a twelve-year-old boy from a small town on the northern plains. His voice and manner were coming to resemble his father’s.

The boy was lying in bed with a copy of The Hobbit open across his counterpane. This time he was not amused at Michael’s old-movie impressions. He looked up with resentment, his beautiful long-lashed eyes angry. Michael easily met the reproach there. He took any opportunity to look at his son. There was something new every day, a different ray, an unexpected facet reflected in the ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Booklist - Bill Ott

This novel lacks the grand sweep of Damascus Gate...Still, as a record of one man's failed attempt to confront the darkness of the universe, it is a kind of small gem perfectly chiseled and revealing an icy clarity at its core that is as frightening as it is hypnotic.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A perfectly calibrated ironic final chapter brings the story to a stunning full-circle conclusion. A small masterpiece, possessed of a relentless lucidity that recalls Conrad and Graham Greene at their peaks. Stone’s best yet.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Stone is at his best here, and that's very, very good.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review.A tight brilliantly observed tale.... A novel of bold prose and subtle perceptions, a small, hard gem from a master writer.

The San Francisco Chronicle —David Kipen

Bay of Souls, takes us from a sleepy American college town to the fictitious Caribbean island of St. Trinity, all for an ambitious, outlandish danse macabre involving CIA puppets and voodoo priestesses.

USA Today — Glenn O'Neal

Exotic and chaotic settings, the main character's intense struggle with who he or she really is and lean, muscular writing are hallmarks of Stone's fiction. His latest, Bay of Souls, doesn't stray from that successful formula.

The New York Times — Norman Rush

A fascinating addition [to Stone's existing body of work]. Unusual (for Stone) in its brevity, this is a highly concentrated work, probably the least violent yet most unnerving of his novels. And the philosophical conflict dramatized in it ends surprisingly, in a way that provokes new questions about what Stone is up to in his writing.

The Washington Post - Neil Gordon

In many ways this is a book of surfaces the shocking images drawn in Stone's accomplished prose, the easy and telling descriptions, the jazzy evocations of infinitely complex political realities, the sometimes facile resort to adventure. But here as in each of his books, the art is in the concealed depths.

Playboy

...shows the author in a stylistic languor as narcotic as the Caribbean island on which the story takes place....more fun than vacationing with your family.

USA Today

Readers who go along with Stone on this voyage won't be disappointed.

The San Diego Union-Tribune

A stunning work, a profound and profoundly moving meditation tethered to a runaway train. ... Bay of Souls is a triumph.

The Chicago Tribune

Hypnotic....takes all of this important writer's motifs to a new and unanticipated level of scrutiny.

The Nation

It's must reading in the way everything Stone writes is.

Bookpage

Every so often, a novel comes along so electrically charged with atmosphere and eroticism that the reader has to consume it in small morsels, stopping from time to time to digest what has been read.... Bay of Souls is such a novel.

The Seattle Times

In Stone's intense, intricate story, moments as minor as a flashlight dropped in the water or a frustrated hunter trying to carry his kill in an unwieldy wheelbarrow are miniatures of the grotesque episodes in which Michael will later find himself.

The Washington Post

Here as elsewhere [Stone] orchestrates the bottomless complexity of political corruption with the subtlety of a jazz composer.

Reader Reviews
jpj

Until Bay of Souls, I've only read Dog Soldiers by Stone, but keep meaning to read other things. The bulk of his books are about characters involved in political situations from the the news today. With the exception of the book about the guy who ...   Read More

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