An Exaltation of Larks is a phenomenal piece of writing that is mesmerizing to watch unfold and amazing to read. The book spans decades in the lives of characters that are so well written, by the end it is nearly impossible to reconcile that they are not, in fact, real.
The book opens September 11, 1973, in Chile, when Alejandro Penda is eleven years old. When Chile falls to a military coup, Alex’s family and sense of security are destroyed and the effects will ripple throughout his entire life. He is sent to live with an uncle in the United States, but when tragedy befalls Alex yet again, he is taken in by the Lark family who treat Alex as one of their own. Alex’s despair of not knowing whatever became of his parents is the backdrop for his life, but he excels, as he becomes a veterinarian and marries Valerie Lark.
Javier Landes grew up in New York and one night changed his entire life. Cast out from his family, Jav is left alone, but with a huge family debt haunting him. A chance meeting changes his life one more time and Jav refines himself, becoming one of NYC’s top male escorts. Jav doesn’t lack for money or companionship, but love is something he doesn’t contemplate. September 11, 2001, changes everyone’s life yet again and just when Jav thought he might be able to have something for himself, it is tragically ripped away from him.
Alex, Valerie, and Jav meet in their 20s and they all leave remarkable impressions on each other. When Jav is named guardian to a nephew he has never met, the trio meet up again in their 40s and they forge a remarkable bond. But life has rules and promises have been made and when secrets are kept and unexpected attraction flares hot and wild, Alex, Jav, and Valerie have to realize their limitations as relationships are torn open and painstakingly pieced back together. Their lives will forever be linked, but it’ll be an extreme test to see how far family ties and loyalty can bend before they break.
In the foreword to this book, the author states this book is a “respectful mix of fact and poetic license,” and that remains true as there is enough realistic background to pull all the tragedies together. The first chapter is heartbreaking as it sets the tone for young Alex’s life and also sets up the meaning of the title, which is seamless and reflective of many profound elements in the lives of the characters.
The book is 550 pages long and there was not a moment that I wanted to set it down. Reading about Alex’s life and then shifting to Javier’s was riveting storytelling. While Alex always knew he was in love with Valerie, Jav never had a chance to figure out his sexuality, which he learns is more complex as his story unfolds. Jav was a good character, until later in the book when he becomes a great character. None of the characters here are perfect, like in life, but when Jav finally has the chance and the courage to lay down his feelings, it is as heartbreaking as it is triumphant. The emotion the author was able to pull from Javier on multiple occasions was chilling as moments of magic are seen, those moments that call one person to another.
The storyline winds through all of their lives and all of the revelations are worked seamlessly into their story. The book shows life as it imitates itself and replays itself in various and unexpected ways. There are many quietly dramatic moments filled with vivid imagery that echo through the decades of the characters’ lives and the story is about choices and chances: the ones you make, the ones you are given, and the ones that are lost.
This is a story I will carry with me for some time. The acknowledgments at the end of the book also make for riveting reading and it was a fine day indeed when this book happened upon me. It is the beginning of the Venery series and I’m sure the storyline will continue to move through unexpected places. This book is classified as LGBT fiction and is not a category romance, but there are certainly romantic elements to it and love to be seen from various intense relationships. This is the book I will urge you to read to discover the words of wildly talented author Suanne Laqueur.