Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on Trespass.
After reading a review of it in the Los Angeles Times, I was thrilled to read Martin’s latest novel. Set against the backdrop of liberal blue-state America on the cusp of the Iraq War, Chloe and Brendan Dale await the arrival of their twenty-one-year-old son, Toby, and his new girlfriend. Salome Drago is a Croat who came to America with her father and brother, escaping the chaos of the Balkans to settle in Louisiana.
Salome has intuitively assimilated the lessons of survival, alert to the advantages of a relationship with Toby and his access to the best that life has to offer. Enthralled by this exotic creature on his arm and in his bed, Toby proudly offers Salome for his parent’s approval- although Salome in no way asks for permission to claim what she wants.
Brendan, writing about the Crusades while on sabbatical, is enthralled with Toby’s selection (her “small vulpine face, very wily, determined, elusive too”), Chloe immediately senses the inherent challenge for her son’s primary affection, an uneven contest considering Salome’s youth, attractiveness and determination.
Bonding mano a mano with Toby, Brendan happily extends his credit card when Toby requests financial assistance so the couple can share an apartment at college. Unfortunately, a return to school isn’t in the immediate future for the pair. A family emergency - the reappearance of a mother thought dead in the war - draws Salome across the globe, where she locates Jelena in Italy. Of course, Toby must join the pregnant Salome, Brendan trailing the couple on a mission to sort through their immediate plans.
Meanwhile, Chloe retreats, finding solace in her work, illustrations for an edition of Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, the familiarity of her studio a balm to her scattered emotions, worrying as well over the appearance of a poacher of indeterminate country who lurks on their property: “The outsiders are insiders now, staking their claim.”
Interspersed throughout is the diary of Jelena’s travails in Bosnia, at the mercy of the Serbs who abuse the women they drag from camp to camp, surviving only by her quick wit and determination to escape, a noble effort by any account. Contrasted to Chloe’s dilemma, the focus of the novel shifts subtly to the immigrant experience, Chloe’s reaction when she learns her mother is alive, and Brendan’s embrace of the adventure before him.
An unexpected twist at the end renders resolution impossible, complicating the novel for me. Like Chloe, I feel abandoned in America, the other characters following Salome to Italy, the girl’s demands increasing as she fails to achieve the expected bonding with her mother.
Salome and her family’s lives are dramatic, traumatic and blatantly irresistible to the Dale males. Only Chloe is incapable of assimilation into the changing family paradigm. Not to worry. Everyone survives, arguably better off, only one the victim of the ultimate trespass.