Divisadero – Review

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Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje

Age: Adult

Divisadero tells the the story of a widowed father raising his two teenage girls on a farm in Northern California along with the help of a young man named Coop. Spanning multiple decades, this is a story of a family divided by violence, love and passion. The story spans not only decades, but also miles. The story begins in Petaluma, takes us through the seedy gambling back rooms of Nevada and Las Vegas and into the serene countryside of France.

Divisadero means “division” and that theme is laid out through the novel in various forms. Divisions among families, among boundaries, state lines and emotional connections. The chapters jump from third person to first person, which can be a little confusing at first, figuring out who is narrating. The novel is beautifully written and the characters are  fully dysfunctional. Although the book is set during a specific time frame, it feels ageless to me. As if the events in this book could happen to anyone, anywhere and at anytime. I found the two sisters, Anna and Claire, to be incredibly boring, Anna more than Claire. Although I felt that Coop is the most interesting character in the entire book, I found the gypsy family in France to be intriguing as well. I think Ondaatje could probably write another novel based solely on Part 3 of this book.

A friend recommended this book, particularly because of the poetic prose and the descriptions of the Bay Area, which I loved, and wished there was more of. I took my time reading this book, and I think it was meant to be read that way.

Extras —

There is a great interview with Ondaajte from 2009 with Robert Haas, where he discusses the book during a Story Hour with the UC Berekely English Department.

By Michael Ondaatje
Alfred A Knopf, 2009
ISBN 9780307266354
273 pages


Find this book at your local library


One response to “Divisadero – Review

  1. Maybe I’m wrong, but doesn’t the story begin in the countryside of Petaluma, not San Francisco?

    I agree that the two sisters were pretty un-interesting, however I’m not the type of reader that searches for characters to identify with. I love literature that has universality to it, including characters that may be unlikable or un-interesting. As long as the language of the novel is able to speak to me in ways that reveal a fresh perspective or a search for truth, then I’m a happy reader. The delicate poetic prose layered in each page of Divisadero made for such a book. I’m glad you liked it too!

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