The first thing Leif notices about Oola is the sharp curve of her delicate shoulders, tensed as if for flight. Even from that first encounter at a party in a flat outside of London, there’s something charged, electric about the way Oola, a music school dropout, connects with the cossetted, listless drifter of a narrator we find in twenty-five-year-old Leif. In love, infatuated, the two hit the road across Europe, housesitting for Leif’s parents’ wealthy friends, and finally settling for the summer in Big Sur. Left to their own devices, a project begins. Leif makes Oola his subject: he will attempt an infinitesimal cartography of her every thought and gesture, her every dimple, every snag, every swell of memory and hollow. And yet in this atmosphere of stifling and paranoid isolation, the world around Leif and Oola begins to warp–the tap water turns salty, plants die, and Oola falls dangerously ill. Finally, it becomes clear that the currents surging just below the surface of Leif’s story are infinitely stranger than they first appear.
Oola by Brittany Newell
Publication Date: April 25, 2017 by Holt Paperbacks
I was thoroughly absorbed for the first portion of the story as the relationship between Oola and Leif unfolded since what’s not to like about an unreliable narrator? The slow, tension-building of the beginning of the story reminded me a lot of all the best details in Bates Motel that manage to make my skin crawl while also not being able to look away.
Unfortunately, there came a point where the story started to feel a bit stagnant to me about midway through the novel. I’d heard enough of Oola’s background and that’s when I became distracted by my dislike for both her and Leif – enough to make me feel like I didn’t care to continue reading. What had initially held my interest never seemed to go below surface level in plot development, but I decided to hold out and see if the storyline would peak my interest again.
I wish I had chosen to just admit defeat instead of seeing this one till the end. While I usually embrace the abstract and bizarre, Oola felt too forced and contrived for me to ever really connect to the story.