Books: “Trust”by Hernan Diaz
Reading “Trust” is what it must be like to open a set of Russian Kachina dolls. You open one doll, and find a smaller one inside. Then you uncover that doll, and find an even smaller one inside.
Only in Hernan Diaz’s intriguing new novel, the dolls are four separates novels, all seemingly unrelated. At first, anyway.
The first novel details the life and times of Benjamin, scion of a tobacco family whose fortune was established in the mid-1800s. Benjamin has no interest in continuing in the family business and instead develops a passion for investing its wealth on Wall Street. He builds a huge mansion in New York City, justifying his riches by claiming he is preserving capitalism.
Benjamin marries the daughter of an old Albany family, and they settle into a comfortable existence until the wife’s health deteriorates and she is confined to a sanatorium in Switzerland.
Cut to a second novel set in the 1920s and written as a memoir by a Wall Street billionaire named Andrew Bevel. A scenario similar to novel #1 unfolds: like Benjamin, Andrew is equally defensive about his wealth and protective of his wife, who is also taken ill. Similarities much?
The third novel begins to clarify the mystery as we see the story told from an entirely different point of view in the early 1960s. Your sense of amazement at Diaz’s legerdemain continues up to the fourth novel and the striking final reveal.
The cleverness of the plot and the unfussy, understated style of Diaz’s prose keep you guessing right up to the end. Meanwhile, sprinkled throughout “Trust” are literary gems. Example? “God is the most uninteresting answer to the most interesting questions,” one character says. Geez, why didn’t i think of that?
Run (or cycle) to your nearest independent bookstore or library and pick up a copy of “Trust.” Not only is it like getting four great novels in one. But you’ll never have to think about those Kachina dolls again.