ROSES ARE placed on a bronze sculpture of a shoe on the banks of the River Danube in Budapest, part of a memorial to the thousands of Hungarian Jews shot into the river during the Holocaust.
(photo credit: KAROLY ARVAI/REUTERS)
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. It also delves deeply into the realm of resentment; particularly towards aging parents whose long-ago hurts and slights still sting and color everything with their lingering toxicity. It looks, too, at what it means to become successful – but not as successful as one imagined one might become. In short, Sarvas has somehow managed to nail down in this novel what it means to truly come to terms with a difficult past. He accomplishes this feat through the engaging voice of his first-person narrator Matt Santos, who seems to come to us directly from Sarvas’s aching heart.It is impossible not to think that much in the novel is mined from Mark Sarvas’ own traumatic family history. His father is a Hungarian Jew who was born in Budapest, and managed to survive the Nazi assault by living under false papers with his family during the war. His mother was born in Vienna and much of her family was murdered in Auschwitz. Sarvas does not recall either parent dwelling on their past experiences; it felt to him as if life started with his own birth in America which occurred soon after they arrived.