The Nostalgia Echo by Mickey Hess, the first novel from C&R Press, is a book with many layers. It follows the storyline of a professional narrator named Gene in search of his birth mother, armed only with a Polaroid photograph of her at a book signing for Doctor Everett Barnes, a nostalgia expert who is at the center of the novel and its subplots.
The Nostalgia Echo is reminiscent of Paul Auster’s City of Glass in that the quest is not the actual quest, but rather the exploration of what is real and what is not from the perspective of an unreliable narrator: “I like to pretend I’m an objective reporter of whatever story I’m telling, but when I get bored and cranky I tend to make things up.”
This propensity for the narrator Gene to make up major and minor characters recasts the true quest of this novel. Its subject is American culture, and our often-misplaced nostalgia for the good ol’ days.
As Doctor Barnes explains, “As children in the Fifties, we dreamed about flying cars. Then in the 1980s I saw a motion picture about a flying car that would take you back to the Fifties. So we’ve seen the future and it doesn’t look good.”
The Nostalgia Echo also contains science fiction elements – like we see in many of Vonnegut’s books – that are so close to our own reality that we barely think twice about them. For example, a drug company twists Doctor Barnes’ assertion that nostalgia is a malady and tries to make a profit by marketing its cure in pill form.
You’ll also be graced with cameos from Americana that intrude into the lives of characters struggling to make sense out of their surreal lives: the Dukes of Hazzard boys, Albert Einstein, J.D. Salinger, and Zorro vs. Godzilla.
The Nostalgia Echo also has another effect, an “echo” that stays with you after reading it. Be prepared for this inventive novel to evoke your own nostalgia, and the truth of everything from childhood memories to modern American history. As nostalgia expert Doctor Barnes explains: “Stories don’t exist in real life. In real life, things just happen, and when you try to make a story out of them, the truth moves further and further away from you.”