Peter Heller is one of those writers that never writes the same book twice. I have read everything he has written, and I can tell you he is one heck of a writer. From The Dog Stars to Celine, Heller can tell a story.
Celine takes place just after 9/11. The main character lives in New York City, and is dealing with the aftermath of this horrible tragedy when she also looses both of her sisters. She is taking time to deal with loss and the factors of time. When I started the book, I thought she was slightly depressed and that she needed to find something to give her some direction. Enter Gabriela. Gabriela has come to Celine because she lost her father years ago - reportedly to a bear attack - but she does not believe the story and is searching for truth. It is here that the story starts.
This book really is the story of Celine, and she is one of the most memorable women that I have ever read about. She is strong, smart and a handful. She is able to solve a mystery, fire a gun, or create art in very unique and fun ways. She constantly deals with the doubts of others and overcomes them. She accepts the job from Gabriela and goes hunting for her father. Staring in Colorado and driving up into Wyoming, Celine has a constant companion in her husband, a soft spoke "Watson" to her "Sherlock". He adds the sense of calm and purpose to her actions. It is amazing how well the work together, and how well Heller describes their relationship with small clues that have powerful images.
I guess overall this is a mystery. Celine sets out to find Gabriela's father and to answer the questions of his disappearance. And that drives the story forward. But for me it was really a character study of how one woman creates herself from her history and her actions. Celine's family was in France at the start of World War II, and they flee to the US as Germany invades France. She and her sisters did not want to leave France, and at times grasp onto the past. But as time goes forward, Celine decides that she wants to become a different person and makes choices that are hard and powerful. I don't want to tell you too much here, because there were some surprises that I found touching and surprising. However, I will say that Heller does an amazing job of making Celine so complex it is like she is standing right before you.
Celine and her husband move around and discover different clues that make Gabriela's father's disappearance more and more complicated. There are great moments where Celine proves that she is more competent than any of those around her. There is a great scene where she goes to a gun store and proves that they have been underestimating her her entire life. This book is a powerful statement about deciding who you want to be and being it.
I truly loved this book, but really I loved Celine. I wanted to know here, and be her friend. The mystery was secondary for me to the character. But the novel in and of itself is compelling and will keep you on the edge of your seat. Heller is amazing at describing the wilderness and towns that Celine travels through. There are beautiful passages that show that Heller has a deep connection with nature. Celine is a very good book that I would highly recommend each of you to read.
Book Rating : 4 stars