New World Monkeys

By Nancy Mauro

The Short Take:

There’s a lot going on in this compelling and chilling novel. Immensely readable, with a primary focus on the troubled marriage of its two protagonists, the plot embraces a wide variety of sometimes bizarre situations. A vein of violence  — repressed and overt — courses throughout. It’s disturbing. That’s what makes it good.


That introduction was the hardest I’ve ever had to write, simply because Mauro’s first novel is so different. You think you’re in familiar reading territory — the troubled urban marriage. Then she sweeps you right down the rabbit hole into a looking glass world shaped by century old bones, a voluble pervert, townspeople that belong in a Stephen King book, and a shocker of an ad campaign for cheap jeans.

It sounds crazy but somehow Mauro makes it all work. In fact, as you are reading, it all seems completely logical. It’s only after you put the book down that you ask, “What the heck was that?” And then start really thinking about how the disparate elements relate to each other and to the floundering marriage of Lily and Duncan.

Ultimately it all comes down to human communication and its inherent inadequacies. Mauro’s Lily and Duncan spend so much time listening to their inner voices and looking for hidden meanings in the other’s words they’ve become emotionally paralyzed. Every other element ties into this problem of communication. As bizarre and disturbing as parts of this novel are, they all coalesce around this central theme.

A Little Plot:

Ad man Duncan and his dissertation-focused wife plan a summer where she stays in her family’s inherited country manor with Duncan coming up weekends. They both suspect this is the beginning of the end of their relationship. On their first drive up, a wild boar crashes into their car setting off a series of events that colors their relationship with each other as well as their summer neighbors.

Add to this the unearthing of human bones in the overgrown garden, Lily’s interest in the adventures of a local pervert, and Duncan’s development of a fantastic advertising campaign that could revitalize his career. Yes, there’s a lot going on in this novel.

But that’s all you’re getting here. If you want more, go to Mauro’s really great website by clicking here. It’s worth the visit. Just like her book is worth reading… and thinking about afterwards.

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