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A son learns more about his father than he ever could have imagined when a mysterious piece of art is unexpectedly restored to him After receiving an unexpected call from the Australian consulate, Matt Santos becomes aware of a painting that he believes was looted from his family in Hungary during the Second World War. To recover the painting, he must repair his strained re A son learns more about his father than he ever could have imagined when a mysterious piece of art is unexpectedly restored to him After receiving an unexpected call from the Australian consulate, Matt Santos becomes aware of a painting that he believes was looted from his family in Hungary during the Second World War. To recover the painting, he must repair his strained relationship with his harshly judgmental father, uncover his family history, and restore his connection to his own Judaism. Along the way to illuminating the mysteries of his past, Matt is torn between his doting girlfriend, Tracy, and his alluring attorney, Rachel, with whom he travels to Budapest to unearth the truth about the painting and, in turn, his family. As his journey progresses, Matt's revelations are accompanied by equally consuming and imaginative meditations on the painting and the painter at the center of his personal drama, Budapest Street Scene by Ervin Kalman. By the time Memento Park reaches its conclusion, Matt's narrative is as much about family history and father-son dynamics as it is about the nature of art itself, and the infinite ways we come to understand ourselves through it. Of all the questions asked by Mark Sarvas's Memento Park--about family and identity, about art and history--a central, unanswerable predicament lingers: How do we move forward when the past looms unreasonably large?


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A son learns more about his father than he ever could have imagined when a mysterious piece of art is unexpectedly restored to him After receiving an unexpected call from the Australian consulate, Matt Santos becomes aware of a painting that he believes was looted from his family in Hungary during the Second World War. To recover the painting, he must repair his strained re A son learns more about his father than he ever could have imagined when a mysterious piece of art is unexpectedly restored to him After receiving an unexpected call from the Australian consulate, Matt Santos becomes aware of a painting that he believes was looted from his family in Hungary during the Second World War. To recover the painting, he must repair his strained relationship with his harshly judgmental father, uncover his family history, and restore his connection to his own Judaism. Along the way to illuminating the mysteries of his past, Matt is torn between his doting girlfriend, Tracy, and his alluring attorney, Rachel, with whom he travels to Budapest to unearth the truth about the painting and, in turn, his family. As his journey progresses, Matt's revelations are accompanied by equally consuming and imaginative meditations on the painting and the painter at the center of his personal drama, Budapest Street Scene by Ervin Kalman. By the time Memento Park reaches its conclusion, Matt's narrative is as much about family history and father-son dynamics as it is about the nature of art itself, and the infinite ways we come to understand ourselves through it. Of all the questions asked by Mark Sarvas's Memento Park--about family and identity, about art and history--a central, unanswerable predicament lingers: How do we move forward when the past looms unreasonably large?

30 review for Memento Park

  1. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    There have been a number of books published these last few years about a lost and found painting which becomes the link between a past and present narrative. At first I wasn’t sure if I was up for another one like this, but the book description promised more. I’m glad I took a chance because I wasn’t disappointed. It’s about a lost and found relationship between a father and a son and about the loss and discovery of a man’s identity when he is dawn into his father’s past, but it is not a dual ti There have been a number of books published these last few years about a lost and found painting which becomes the link between a past and present narrative. At first I wasn’t sure if I was up for another one like this, but the book description promised more. I’m glad I took a chance because I wasn’t disappointed. It’s about a lost and found relationship between a father and a son and about the loss and discovery of a man’s identity when he is dawn into his father’s past, but it is not a dual time line narrative. By virtue of the first person narrative, this is such an introspective novel. It begins with Matt Santos standing before the painting that has come into his possession through restoration efforts of an organization whose mission is to return paintings to the families of rightful owners after WWII. He stands before the painting the evening before it is to be auctioned off for millions of dollars. The story is told through flashbacks in Matt’s thoughts as he carries on a one sided conversation with the security guard who lurks. It is about the painting and the artist, but it’s really about relationships, especially a father and a son. There is also the dilemma that Matt finds himself in with his relationships with two women. The painting connects the past with the present and when the truth about the painting comes to light, it connects Matt to the father he never understood. He connects to his Jewish roots as he discovers the role of it in his grandmother’s fate during the round up of Jews by Arrow Cross in Hungary. I found it especially sad that so much was unknown by Matt about his father and that void created such a distance between them as well as between Matt and his Jewish heritage. It is through the relationship that Matt has with his lawyer Rachel that he begins to realize what he has missed. There are some poignant moments as he reflects on “my list Jewish childhood” and recognition of the importance of the Sabbath. I was also quite moved by the places that Matt visits when he goes to Hungary especially the “Holocaust memorial on the Danube, sixty bronze pairs of shoes left on the embankment where many of the murders had taken place.” This is well written and quiet except for the inner turmoil that Matt experiences on his journey to know his father and himself. Don’t shy away from this because you think it is a “religious” story . It is about much more - some horrific things that happened in Hungary during WWII that I just learned of, and it’s about love and self discovery, things that are common to all of us. I received an advanced copy of this book from Farrar Straus and Giroux through NetGalley.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook- narrated by David Ledoux was a ‘perfect/terrific’ choice for this novel . David Ledoux .....( must give this narrator credit), became more than a voice for Matt Santos, a secular Jewish protagonist. He makes it abundantly clear that under the gruff, sardonic exterior of Matt, under his sarcasm, and occasionally self-loathing, Matt was troubled by his personal life, - [past and present] - his professional life....his relationships with his father, his fiancé, his lawyer, and his Jewish Audiobook- narrated by David Ledoux was a ‘perfect/terrific’ choice for this novel . David Ledoux .....( must give this narrator credit), became more than a voice for Matt Santos, a secular Jewish protagonist. He makes it abundantly clear that under the gruff, sardonic exterior of Matt, under his sarcasm, and occasionally self-loathing, Matt was troubled by his personal life, - [past and present] - his professional life....his relationships with his father, his fiancé, his lawyer, and his Jewish roots. I was eager to know more about the mystery that encompassed the painting and the mystery between Matt and his father. The ranges - changes - stories within stories - details - descriptions - variations- moods and emotions changing - name it any way you want - anything but boring - in Mark Sarvas writing was exquisite....and kept me interested from beginning to end. In the very beginning I was laughing out loud. There were sentences- not sure politically correct — but culturally from my own Jewish secular roots were very familiar. I’m not sure to be called a ‘shiksa’ today is a very nice word....and it wasn’t in my teen years either .....but every Jewish male or female my age knows the stereotype connection between the average single curly hair Jewish guy and his desire for a beautiful blond non- Jewish girl ( The Shiksa)..... And the FIRST Jewish experience Matt remembers with his grandfather - going to temple ...will have every Jewish person laughing and shaking their head. So, yes ....there are a few inside secular Jewish tidbit jokes..... But author Mark Sarvas keeps this story moving and moving WITH PLOT AND EMOTIONS. There became other times, I was so moved - or sad - I wanted to cry. For example - Matt and Rachel are in Budapest, Hungary.....and Matt visits the “SHOES ON THE DANUBE”. ......” To The Memory of Victims Shot into Danube”. People were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank. And what’s even more sad to me —-is how ‘hidden’ this memorial is in Hungary. NO mention of the word JEWS anywhere. Anti-Semitism is still persistent in Hungary today. The humor as I mentioned was wonderful .... ( sarcastic humor )......but the sadness will be remembered forever. I spent time looking through my own life — with family and friends - Holocaust survivors and my friends parents who were. Matt changes- transforms by the end. He just isn’t the same guy that he was at the beginning. Tracy tells him.....” do not make assumptions that just because you know what somebody does, you know who they are”. She was talking about Matt’s father. Matt realized she was talking about all of us. And then.......he had an Epiphany: A WONDERFUL SURPRISE INSPIRING ENDING! Matt’s journey of discovery & identify —- with a painting connection - ( worth more than $3 million in my mind), had me in tears at the end. I re- played those GORGEOUS FINAL SENTENCES three times yesterday. I have many people in my life who MUST READ THIS NOVEL! I’ll listen to this audiobook again myself - there are many moments to savor. ***A special thank you to Angela for the book recommendation. Maybe one day - I would have discovered it .... but I just didn’t see it. Thank you very much for making ‘sure’ I knew of it! Keep them coming..... lol. 💕📚 Thank You To this wonderful author: MARK SARVAS!! Your book touches our hearts....and you’re an extraordinary storyteller/ writer!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    A painting by Ervin Kalman, titled a Budapest Street scene looted by the Nazis, is the background of this novel. Matt, a young Jewish man who is out of touch with his faith, is contacted by a lawyer, telling him this painiting, traced back to his family, has been found. What he cannot understand is his father, who came to America from Hungary, doesn't want anything to do with this endeavor. A father who he has a estranged relationship with but do will usually jump all over anything thst pertains A painting by Ervin Kalman, titled a Budapest Street scene looted by the Nazis, is the background of this novel. Matt, a young Jewish man who is out of touch with his faith, is contacted by a lawyer, telling him this painiting, traced back to his family, has been found. What he cannot understand is his father, who came to America from Hungary, doesn't want anything to do with this endeavor. A father who he has a estranged relationship with but do will usually jump all over anything thst pertains to big money. A father who has told him little of his own past. Not a quickly paced novel, but one that has a great deal of meaning. Matt is an interesting character, not only the the contentious relationship with his father, but also because he realizes how much he doesn't know and understand. This is a thoughtful and meditative look of a man trying to discover his roots, find out why his father was the way he was and in search of the Jewish faith in which he was not raised. Eventually he will find himself in Hungary, gets in touch with the family he never knew he had but still live there. He will find out things that will change him and his life, personally snd relationship wise. While there he will visit Memento Park, an open air museum containing the statues of communists, saints and heroes.

  4. 5 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    4.5★ “ . . . and I can only think about all I have squandered, the astonishing lack of care with which I have blundered through life. So much beyond recovery, things that can never be restored, truths devoured by time, by neglect.” Matt Santos is sitting in an auction house, after closing time, in front of the painting around which the people in this story revolve. The very existence of the painting, where it came from, and to whom it belongs, has raised all kinds of questions about Matt’s family 4.5★ “ . . . and I can only think about all I have squandered, the astonishing lack of care with which I have blundered through life. So much beyond recovery, things that can never be restored, truths devoured by time, by neglect.” Matt Santos is sitting in an auction house, after closing time, in front of the painting around which the people in this story revolve. The very existence of the painting, where it came from, and to whom it belongs, has raised all kinds of questions about Matt’s family history. The auction house security guard’s shirt says VIGIL, the name of the company, but Matt reads it first as VIRGIL, so Matt addresses his internal monologue to Virgil, calling him by name throughout, which I quite liked. It gave the book a confessional, story-telling quality – a sharing of his most private thoughts which he is reluctant to face. Matt is an actor, playing recurring supporting roles in television just often enough to be recognised in public and to earn a pretty good living. He lives in L.A. with Tracey, his fiancée, who is a fair, delicate model who is often away on photo shoots. A nice life, far across the continent from his difficult Hungarian father. When he is told his family may have claim to a painting that was lost during WW2, he is intrigued. “The easiest solution surely would be to call my father and inquire. Ah. Easy. According to what facile definition of the word? There was nothing easy that passed between us. I was afraid of him as a boy, terror unmixed with the admiration my friends felt for their fathers, and—snicker though you might, Virgil—in truth, I feared him still. Not in the same way, not in so primal a manner—when I was a boy, the sound of his approach down the hallway could make the hair rise on my neck—but fear, nonetheless.” His father paid more attention to his vast collection of model cars and planes, carefully displayed downstairs to be admired and taken to special sales, where Matt was then his assistant, the only time he could touch them. “. . . my father avoided intimate companionship. I would watch as he hung up the telephone with someone he had known for years, only to mutter idiot as he retreated to his cellar full of toy cars.” Matt recounts the past, but admits to us (and Virgil) at one point: “My faith in my recall is shaken. I think, at moments like these, that I remember nothing, that my life is merely a script, a tale told, revised on the fly . . . ” Scripts he understands. His father, not at all. He engages a lawyer to follow up the claim on the painting and is fascinated with Rachel’s comfortable observance of Jewish customs which remind him of his father’s father, who took him to synagogue once. She is amazed that he has no idea about even the most basic stories. He is intrigued. As he realises how shallow his own life is and wonders what his father’s past must have been like in Hungary, he begins to open his eyes. He starts with the family tree. “These tributaries of family ran into a wider river than I’d ever imagined, and amid them all, Szantos emerged like a thin green shoot rising out of broken concrete. . . . Eventually, I returned the tree to its folder and stowed it in my drawer, uncertain what to do with it next. It had told much more than I’d imagined but much less than I’d needed.” As a supporting actor, he’s always had plenty of idle time on sets, so to make up for the time he wasted in school, he used the time on various projects, continuing “my irregular learning, plugging up the potholes of my scattershot education.” The painting becomes the latest project, but he sure learns more than he bargained for. I enjoyed the writing, the sympathetic characters and the whole storyline. This is a very modern young man, torn between his wish to understand his father and his lifelong fear (and sometimes loathing) of him. The women, the family in Hungary, the painting, and then his understanding of what it was then and is now to be Jewish. Thanks to NetGalley and Farrar, Strauss and Giroux for the preview copy from which I’ve quoted.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Memento Park is a story of restitution, of a man seeking to recover a painting he believes was looted from his family in Hungary during World War II. This art themed novel revolves around "Budapest Street Scene" painted by Hungarian Ervin Laszlo Kalman, history and relationships - between father and son, between client and lawyer, between Matt and his girlfriend Tracy and more. Memento Park takes on questions of authenticity and identity. This novel is full of painting references, some authentic Memento Park is a story of restitution, of a man seeking to recover a painting he believes was looted from his family in Hungary during World War II. This art themed novel revolves around "Budapest Street Scene" painted by Hungarian Ervin Laszlo Kalman, history and relationships - between father and son, between client and lawyer, between Matt and his girlfriend Tracy and more. Memento Park takes on questions of authenticity and identity. This novel is full of painting references, some authentic and some fiction. The painting "Budapest Street Scene" seemed so real that I 'googled' it and the artist Kalman and discovered that both were creations of the vivid imagination of the author, Mark Sarvas. I was intrigued by Matt and Rachel's visit to Hungary and the description of places and his Hungarian relatives. Memento Park, Hungarian National Gallery, Dohany Street Synagogue, Heroes' Square, Kozma Street Cemetery and the memorial Shoes on the Danube Bank were unknown to me. Dohany Street Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe and second largest in the world. I recommend this novel to anyone who would appreciate the many painting references, literary writing, history and the complications of love and family. Thanks to the author Mark Sarvas, publishers Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of MEMENTO PARK in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    An introspective very well written novel about a Jewish man with Hungarian roots and his relationship with his father and how it is altered after his father's death by a painting. The narrator is a B-list actor, emotionally immature and prone to self-pity. He blames his undemonstrative taciturn father for his mid-life crisis. The painting is by the Hungarian Ervin Kalman, worth millions now and there's a mystery how it came into the family just before the Nazis arrived in Budapest. The narrator' An introspective very well written novel about a Jewish man with Hungarian roots and his relationship with his father and how it is altered after his father's death by a painting. The narrator is a B-list actor, emotionally immature and prone to self-pity. He blames his undemonstrative taciturn father for his mid-life crisis. The painting is by the Hungarian Ervin Kalman, worth millions now and there's a mystery how it came into the family just before the Nazis arrived in Budapest. The narrator's father refuses to speak about it. Together with his Jewish lawyer, the narrator will himself have to solve the mystery and in the process reconnect with his family and his Jewish heritage. There's an ingenious twist towards the end. I thoroughly enjoyed this meditation on identity and the selective and protean nature of memory.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robert Blumenthal

    This is a beautifully written story of a son trying to connect with a distant father wrapped around a mystery involving a painting that was discovered that had been stolen from a Hungarian Jewish family by the Nazis in WWII. Matt is a semi-successful young actor in Hollywood, the son of a Hungarian immigrant. He is informed that a painting that was owned by his family has been discovered and that he could claim it and take possession of it. There is some mystery around this painting, the most si This is a beautifully written story of a son trying to connect with a distant father wrapped around a mystery involving a painting that was discovered that had been stolen from a Hungarian Jewish family by the Nazis in WWII. Matt is a semi-successful young actor in Hollywood, the son of a Hungarian immigrant. He is informed that a painting that was owned by his family has been discovered and that he could claim it and take possession of it. There is some mystery around this painting, the most significant being why Matt’s father wants nothing to do with it. Matt is intrigued and works with Rachel, a beautiful and religious Jewish lawyer to do the necessary legal process to receive the painting, which is worth millions. The gist of this story is peeling away the layers of the strained relationship that Matt has with his father, who is rather abrupt and very reticent in terms of affection and emotional support. Matt is desperately trying to find some connection with his father, but the past keeps getting in the way. In addidtion, he becomes very attracted to Rachel, which seriously endangers his relationship with Tracy, a swimsuit model with a social conscience and heart. There is also Matt’s search for deeper meaning in a spiritual sense. He is essentially an atheist and is enticed by Rachel’s religious life, but it is very difficult for him to grasp it for himself. But the relationship between father and son is what really drives this novel. There is quite a bit of introspection going on here, laced with a slightly sarcastic wit. Matt makes some pretty lame decisions during this journey, and he truly suffers for it. But the author is very wise and displays a keen understanding of people and relationships.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Each book we read takes us on a different journey--and, this will be a trip I remember for a long, long time. Mark Sarvas' novel was both troubling and compelling and I found myself reading it very quickly because I needed (not wanted, but truly needed) to know its outcome. BUT, when I finished reading the contemplation began. This is a book to savor---maybe in its aftermath, like I am doing., or perhaps as you are reading it. The relationships between the protagonist and his family, his friends, Each book we read takes us on a different journey--and, this will be a trip I remember for a long, long time. Mark Sarvas' novel was both troubling and compelling and I found myself reading it very quickly because I needed (not wanted, but truly needed) to know its outcome. BUT, when I finished reading the contemplation began. This is a book to savor---maybe in its aftermath, like I am doing., or perhaps as you are reading it. The relationships between the protagonist and his family, his friends, his colleagues, are all less than we want to experience in a hero. But, he questions. And, he seeks. And, he changes. Perhaps he grows. . . . . I was uncomfortable with many aspects of the book--particularly the main character's relationships with his father and his fiance, but as he worked through his questions, it raised questions for me as a reader and created a valuable literary experience for me. It would be a stretch to say I enjoyed the book, but I valued it tremendously. Everything we encounter in life can't be easy, or accept a "simple fix"---- this complex story took me on an interesting journey and I appreciated the ride. Netgalley provided me an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kati Berman

    There were many reasons I requested this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was born and raised in Hungary, I am Jewish and my family lost many members during the Holocaust. I grew up in communist Hungary and left for America way before the fall of communism. I have been back a few times after the fall, I have been to Memento Park, the title of this novel and I have seen the shoe memorial at the shore of the Danube. So, this book was very special for me for all the above rea There were many reasons I requested this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was born and raised in Hungary, I am Jewish and my family lost many members during the Holocaust. I grew up in communist Hungary and left for America way before the fall of communism. I have been back a few times after the fall, I have been to Memento Park, the title of this novel and I have seen the shoe memorial at the shore of the Danube. So, this book was very special for me for all the above reasons. With all that said, I liked the book, but didn’t love it. Matt, (Mátyás in Hungarian) is born in the United States to Holocaust survivors, who left communist Hungary in 1956 during the student uprising against communism. His parents (now divorced) didn’t talk about the war years or their Judaism, Matt grew up in a secular household, much like I and many children of Holocaust survivors did. When Matt gets a call about a painting that surfaced after many years and might have belonged to his family, his life changes. He tries to understand the story of the painting, the Jewish artist that painted it and his relationship with his father, his fiancée and his lawyer. He travels back to Budapest to meet with family members who might have known about his family owning the painting. While I loved the story itself, I found the narrative often confusing, Matt seemed to have been talking to a security guard at an auction house where the painting was put up but other times he was speaking to Rachel, his lawyer. Sometimes the timeline was mixed up also, in one chapter he is already in Budapest, in a later chapter he is still getting ready to go. The scene at the Danube shoe memorial unfortunately was very realistic, as Hungary today is one of the most anti Semitic country in the world. Overall I give this book 4 stars. Thanks NetGalley, the publisher and the author for this advanced copy and for the opportunity to revisit my native country and my own family history.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    I read this novel because Mark Sarvas used to have a wonderful literary blog called The Elegant Variation. It was one of the first blogs I followed back when book blogging was a new fresh thing and a big deal. He inspired me to start my own blog. Memento Park is the story of a 21st century man descended from Hungarian Jews. Matt Santos is a B-list actor. He has steady work doing bit parts on TV shows and is engaged to a beautiful, not Jewish, blonde fashion model. Then a painting comes into his I read this novel because Mark Sarvas used to have a wonderful literary blog called The Elegant Variation. It was one of the first blogs I followed back when book blogging was a new fresh thing and a big deal. He inspired me to start my own blog. Memento Park is the story of a 21st century man descended from Hungarian Jews. Matt Santos is a B-list actor. He has steady work doing bit parts on TV shows and is engaged to a beautiful, not Jewish, blonde fashion model. Then a painting comes into his life, a masterpiece by a deceased Hungarian modernist believed to have been looted from Matt's parents' home in Budapest during WWII. Like a wish granted in a fairytale, the painting could make him a rich man but brings with it a curse. Matt has a fractured relationship with his father, a distant connection with his mother, and a deep aversion to his family's past. In truly beautiful prose layered with the contemporary glib conversations of Hollywood, Matt's journey to acceptance and awareness unfolds. On his journey he loses almost everything: his fiancee, his job and very nearly his sanity. Though there are scenes of levity and wit, a darkly emotional atmosphere wraps this tale. Somehow I never tire of stories where a secret and murky past involving immigrants who deny that past in order to make a good life in America, comes back to haunt their children. When the story is written as masterfully as Memento Park is, I feel honored just having read it. Last night I met Mark Sarvas in person for the first time at a writer's event held in the Echo Park branch of 826LA, where he read a passage from the book. He is a husband and father now, he teaches novel writing at UCLA, and has moved on from blogging. I got to tell him how much I loved his novel and why. He thanked me several times for coming out but seemed conflicted about being in the public eye. He is at work on a new novel that he said harks back to the comedic mode of his first novel, Harry, Revised, which I never read. I was a fan of his blog and now I am a fan of his fiction. I will read the first novel while I await the third.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Judy Churchill

    Let me first say this is not a book I would have chosen to read but I ended up LOVING it. It is about a man’s earnest look at his Jewish roots, his relationship with his father, and his own claim to adulthood and meaning. The novel’s first person style is enchanting. It is altogether a worthwhile story and a must read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Caeli Wolfson

    This book shines on every level: sentence after sentence is beautiful and precise, the characters are complicated and sympathetic, the ideas are sweeping and profound but never bear down too overtly on the reader. It's a rare novel that is as accomplished in its "meaning" as it is in its pure, old-fashioned storytelling while ALSO succeeding wildly at the language level...but MEMENTO PARK does it all. It's about history, about the lies we inhabit in order to live, the cruelty of the past, the un This book shines on every level: sentence after sentence is beautiful and precise, the characters are complicated and sympathetic, the ideas are sweeping and profound but never bear down too overtly on the reader. It's a rare novel that is as accomplished in its "meaning" as it is in its pure, old-fashioned storytelling while ALSO succeeding wildly at the language level...but MEMENTO PARK does it all. It's about history, about the lies we inhabit in order to live, the cruelty of the past, the uncertainty of the present, the complexity of marriage, the chains of family...it's a Big Book, yet it never overwhelms the reader, but invites her in. A novel to lose yourself in and then reflect upon again and again.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Candace

    This is a wonderfully written novel that offers a new take on the issue of art looted from Jewish families during WWII. Matt is set on the path of proving provenance of a painting found in Australia that is believed to have belonged to his family before the war. Matt's a working actor, pretty scattered about his career, his father, Judaism, and his relationships with others in general. He's not sure he cares about this painting for anything but the money. He makes a halfhearted attempt to confir This is a wonderfully written novel that offers a new take on the issue of art looted from Jewish families during WWII. Matt is set on the path of proving provenance of a painting found in Australia that is believed to have belonged to his family before the war. Matt's a working actor, pretty scattered about his career, his father, Judaism, and his relationships with others in general. He's not sure he cares about this painting for anything but the money. He makes a halfhearted attempt to confirm ownership to start with, but he becomes more engaged as he learns more about that past that made his father so harsh to him. This novel is more about Matt's journey of discovery than it is about the art. There's a surprise at the end. Thoughtful and meaningful, and a good read as well.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    This story morphs and disguises throughout, an occasional love story, a story of faith, the complications of a father son relationship, and the recently rediscovered painting "Budapest street scene" which has it own story. There were moments of sheer brilliance, I really enjoyed the moments when Mark directly addresses Virgil, a security guard at the auctioneers house, and the device the author uses to feel we are being directly communicated to as the readers in this master class of the slow rev This story morphs and disguises throughout, an occasional love story, a story of faith, the complications of a father son relationship, and the recently rediscovered painting "Budapest street scene" which has it own story. There were moments of sheer brilliance, I really enjoyed the moments when Mark directly addresses Virgil, a security guard at the auctioneers house, and the device the author uses to feel we are being directly communicated to as the readers in this master class of the slow reveal. I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in more literary writing, art, history, and the complications of love and family. Thank you to the publisher for providing me with this arc available through netgalley.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Zachary Houle

    As a book blogger, sometimes you take chances on seemingly unknown authors and their works with the hopes that you might be blown away. Well, I took a chance on Mark Sarvas’ Memento Park and I’m elated that I did. This compact yet dense novel is about memory, religion, family, relationships, betrayal, art and so much more — but is immensely readable and relatable. Focusing on a modern-day C-list Hollywood actor named Matthew Santos (note that he shares the same initials as the author, so you can As a book blogger, sometimes you take chances on seemingly unknown authors and their works with the hopes that you might be blown away. Well, I took a chance on Mark Sarvas’ Memento Park and I’m elated that I did. This compact yet dense novel is about memory, religion, family, relationships, betrayal, art and so much more — but is immensely readable and relatable. Focusing on a modern-day C-list Hollywood actor named Matthew Santos (note that he shares the same initials as the author, so you can draw your own conclusions), Memento Park sees him acquire a valuable painting from a Jewish artist who committed suicide during World War II in Hungary. The painting’s worth a cool couple of millions of dollars, and Santos has acquired it because it apparently belonged to his family before being spirited away by anti-Semitic sympathizers prior to the family’s arrival in America. Oh, and the painting would have belonged to his father, but he doesn’t want it. So sets forth a mystery as to what Santos doesn’t know about his dad — a man he’s been at odds with for several years — and all the hidden things he harbours. The novel is told almost entirely in flashback as Santos riffles through his memories while waiting for the painting to hit the auction block, or, more accurately, the night before it is about to be sold. Through this process, the character comes to understand the secrets that others withhold from us — or secrets that might be a product of our own imagining. The story offers a bit of a love triangle, as Santos is living with a model named Tracy, but also has designs on the lawyer handling getting the painting back into his hands, Rachel. However, the core of the novel is the binds of family — how sons and fathers bond or don’t bond over shared interests. Read the rest here: https://medium.com/@zachary_houle/a-r...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Carson

    I got an advanced copy of Memento Park and LOVED IT. The writing is exquisite -- elegant, restrained, and powerful, and the novel's secrets are so skillfully and satisfyingly revealed. I was deeply moved, especially by the ending, which was beautifully executed. Matt (the main character) is a complicated, believable, messy person, and the female characters are similarly well-drawn. I fell into this remarkable book. Read it! I got an advanced copy of Memento Park and LOVED IT. The writing is exquisite -- elegant, restrained, and powerful, and the novel's secrets are so skillfully and satisfyingly revealed. I was deeply moved, especially by the ending, which was beautifully executed. Matt (the main character) is a complicated, believable, messy person, and the female characters are similarly well-drawn. I fell into this remarkable book. Read it!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marcy

    4.5 - I was absorbed by this book from the first page. The story revolves around the recovery of a painting stolen by the Nazis from a Hungarian family. Although the concept is not original, the storytelling in this book is. Told in the first person, full of self reflection, it very much feels like real memory; not linear but in pieces that are often humorous and heartwarming. The characters are all fully flushed and interesting, and the backdrop of Budapest and the history of the Jews there gave 4.5 - I was absorbed by this book from the first page. The story revolves around the recovery of a painting stolen by the Nazis from a Hungarian family. Although the concept is not original, the storytelling in this book is. Told in the first person, full of self reflection, it very much feels like real memory; not linear but in pieces that are often humorous and heartwarming. The characters are all fully flushed and interesting, and the backdrop of Budapest and the history of the Jews there gave heft to the story.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rich Szabo

    A terrific page turner mystery, actually many mysteries woven into one. Sarvas shows he is a master storyteller, the entire story a flashback that builds the supporting storylines into a thrilling and surprising climax. I found Sarvas’ exploration of the main character’s relationship with his father a compelling and thick mystery of its own, aside from and combined with the mystery surrounding the painting. It led me to see my parents in a new light. Now that I’ve discovered his writing I’m eager A terrific page turner mystery, actually many mysteries woven into one. Sarvas shows he is a master storyteller, the entire story a flashback that builds the supporting storylines into a thrilling and surprising climax. I found Sarvas’ exploration of the main character’s relationship with his father a compelling and thick mystery of its own, aside from and combined with the mystery surrounding the painting. It led me to see my parents in a new light. Now that I’ve discovered his writing I’m eager to read his earlier work, and I can’t wait to see what Sarvas has in store for us next.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    A single Jewish man, Matt Santos, an actor in LA, is torn between a blond gentile swimsuit model and a wavy-haired devout Jewish attorney. (Is that a dated, or classic, conflict for a Jewish male protagonist?) Also, he may be able to sell for millions a painting (by an invented artist) stolen by Nazis, which has fallen into his life, if he can show it once belonged to his family. And his distant, gambling, volatile dad has a random hobby of trading toy cars. The actor tells his story all night, A single Jewish man, Matt Santos, an actor in LA, is torn between a blond gentile swimsuit model and a wavy-haired devout Jewish attorney. (Is that a dated, or classic, conflict for a Jewish male protagonist?) Also, he may be able to sell for millions a painting (by an invented artist) stolen by Nazis, which has fallen into his life, if he can show it once belonged to his family. And his distant, gambling, volatile dad has a random hobby of trading toy cars. The actor tells his story all night, in his mind, to a security guard before the painting's auction, and then the story catches up with the auction itself. Sentences are carefully crafted and a pleasure to read. There's wisdom: "Do not make the mistake of assuming that because you know what someone will do, that you know who they are." There's appreciation of the LA life: "I never lose the quiet thrill I feel exiting the McClure Tunnel at the end of the Santa Monica Freeway to find the Pacific Coast Highway unfurling before me." There are interesting interior thoughts and doubts. The mystery of the ownership of the painting is solved when a box containing the answer is delivered as unexpectedly as the original phone call early in the novel letting Matt know that he might be the heir to the painting. And Matt finds out his father wasn't so bad. The novel is brief and briskly paced. Big issues like the Holocaust/reparations, secular/religious life, fathers/sons, east/west coast, reality/fiction, ethnicity/assimilation are considered. The ending brings resolution and maybe some character growth for Matt--he looks at life more deeply; the mood is hopeful. There are endnotes, somewhat unusual for a novel, including a citation to a nonfiction book that portrays the real-life inspiration for this novel, Ann-Marie O'Connor's The Lady in Gold (2012), which tells of the Klimt paintings stolen by Nazis and returned a decade ago by the Austrian government, with the repatriated works exhibited in Los Angeles in 2006 and now hanging at the Neue Galerie in New York.

  20. 4 out of 5

    C.R. Elliott

    *I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review* This was a difficult book. A book I wanted to like and even sort of did enjoy. The nature of the first person narration makes it a more visceral experience and perhaps the very thing that drew me to the book is also why I struggled to enjoy it. Being the daughter of a difficult Hungarian father (and extended family) I am always interested in books that involve Hungary and Hungarians. There is a deep resonance with Mark Santos’ ex *I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review* This was a difficult book. A book I wanted to like and even sort of did enjoy. The nature of the first person narration makes it a more visceral experience and perhaps the very thing that drew me to the book is also why I struggled to enjoy it. Being the daughter of a difficult Hungarian father (and extended family) I am always interested in books that involve Hungary and Hungarians. There is a deep resonance with Mark Santos’ experience of his father. I think Mark Sarvas as a writer has managed to capture truth in his work and that is something I respected, it is what urged me forward. Unfortunately, the visceral nature of the narration, the evasiveness of the narrator and the story itself were a challenge to read through. I found myself putting the book down often. I think if you enjoy a challenging book this is a good read. There are deep insights herein and the author captures something really important, I just found it too difficult to enjoy even as I could see the beauty in it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    While this did not resonate with me the way I suspect it will with others, it's a well written novel of a man coming to terms with his own family history and with his father. Matt's world changes when he is contacted about a painting taken from his family during the Holocaust and travels to Hungary. The novel is framed in terms of Matt's rumination about the painting and life. It is indeed a book of self discovery and has some good points to make. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. While this did not resonate with me the way I suspect it will with others, it's a well written novel of a man coming to terms with his own family history and with his father. Matt's world changes when he is contacted about a painting taken from his family during the Holocaust and travels to Hungary. The novel is framed in terms of Matt's rumination about the painting and life. It is indeed a book of self discovery and has some good points to make. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    Mark Savras has written an unforgettable novel in "Memento Park", which is centered around Matt's relationship with his father, which is complex and vacillates between love and intense dislike. Other plot lines include the restoration to Matt's family of a painting by a Hungarian-Jewish painter whose life was destroyed by the Nazi takeover of Hungary during World War II; the artist committed suicide before the occupation of Budapest took place, and he destroyed many of his paintings and drawings Mark Savras has written an unforgettable novel in "Memento Park", which is centered around Matt's relationship with his father, which is complex and vacillates between love and intense dislike. Other plot lines include the restoration to Matt's family of a painting by a Hungarian-Jewish painter whose life was destroyed by the Nazi takeover of Hungary during World War II; the artist committed suicide before the occupation of Budapest took place, and he destroyed many of his paintings and drawings before shooting himself in the head. Matt is an actor and although his father was impressed with the money Matt earned in this profession the father never granted Matt any direct approval or encouragement. Rather he made disparaging comments about Matt's intelligence and capabilities - this kid could do nothing right. Matt is living with his girlfriend, Tracy, but is very attracted to Rachel, the attorney who is working with him to recover the painting that Matt's grandfather had received in 1944 or 1945. Both women are portrayed in wonderful detail - this male writer knows how to create female characters who are genuine and real, unlike some of the male authors whose books I've read who haven't a single concept about what actually goes on in a woman's mind. I won't disclose the ending of this book because I really suggest that you read it. I'd recommend this book for anyone interested in excellent fiction, Jewish history, the Holocaust, art, and even toy cars. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have done.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Suzie Leadabrand

    Startlingly accurate. How we respond, interact, deny, avoid our family of origin, sometimes too late to recover meaningful dialogue. Add to that the mix gut-wrenching lives of loved ones we have no way of beginning to even imagine, unearth, let alone understand.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dara Markowitz

    first person , virtually a monologue. More about making peace with your past and your relationships. "Just because you know what someone will do, doesn't mean to know who they are" Hashkiveinu Could be a Jewish book club read first person , virtually a monologue. More about making peace with your past and your relationships. "Just because you know what someone will do, doesn't mean to know who they are" Hashkiveinu Could be a Jewish book club read

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mainlinebooker

    Contemplative.Insightful.Humorous.Bittersweet...These are all the adjectives that come to mind upon finishing this complex novel. While on the surface it appears to be about a second generation Jewish Hungarian American who despite knowing little about Judaism finds himself a recipient of a famous painting. This painting was taken from his family's home and under the restitution act, will soon make him a very rich man. He travels to Europe and around the US to uncover its story and how it fits i Contemplative.Insightful.Humorous.Bittersweet...These are all the adjectives that come to mind upon finishing this complex novel. While on the surface it appears to be about a second generation Jewish Hungarian American who despite knowing little about Judaism finds himself a recipient of a famous painting. This painting was taken from his family's home and under the restitution act, will soon make him a very rich man. He travels to Europe and around the US to uncover its story and how it fits into his life. Along the way, the real nuts and bolts of the story begins with the examination of his stormy relationship with his cantankerous father, his embrace of his lawyer's Judaism, and a dying rabbi who has also claimed ownership of the painting.The last third of the book faltered in its strength, but overall it is a moving self reflection that is written with urgency, a vigorous examination of the relationship between fathers and sons and a questioning of faith. A 3.5

  26. 5 out of 5

    Merle

    On the surface this novel, Memento Park, written by Mark Sarvas, seems to be about the process of recovering Budapest Street Scene, the painting that was lost by the Santos family when his grandfather escaped to America and his grandmother was killed in a concentration camp. But underneath there are multiple interactions that are all ripe for discussion and analysis. So many different points that different readers will relate to and connect to. So many times in this book, Matt describes interacti On the surface this novel, Memento Park, written by Mark Sarvas, seems to be about the process of recovering Budapest Street Scene, the painting that was lost by the Santos family when his grandfather escaped to America and his grandmother was killed in a concentration camp. But underneath there are multiple interactions that are all ripe for discussion and analysis. So many different points that different readers will relate to and connect to. So many times in this book, Matt describes interactions as scenes, and watches himself from off stage acting a part. He struggles with emotion and actually showing himself to others. He remains hidden, the actor performing. This, he also says, was because of his father, "He also never taught me the more essential things - right and wrong, how to read a stranger, how to love. That this omission went unnoticed by me for so long is, in itself, telling." He comes back to this struggle with his father over and over again. It informs all of his interactions with other people. How he gets along with Tracy and Rachel, the lawyer. So many complicated characters and choices to make through out the book. It is a gripping story and even if you think you know what may happen next you will be surprised at the ending. People and objects are not always what they seem.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This was just phenomenal writing. I honestly would have a hard time choosing to read this book if I were to give a summary or description, so I don't feel equipped to give a review. However, I highly recommend it and will be checking out Sarvas' other writing. This was just phenomenal writing. I honestly would have a hard time choosing to read this book if I were to give a summary or description, so I don't feel equipped to give a review. However, I highly recommend it and will be checking out Sarvas' other writing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    “It’s possible to spend an entire life looking at something, and, even then, fail to behold it in any meaningful way. “ This is more like three and a half stars(the second half is not quite as strong as the first half), but I haven’t enjoyed the writing in a book this much in a long time. Matt, the main character believes he has a claim to a painting that was taken by the Nazis right before Hungary fell to the Germans. Matt does not know how his family came to own the painting, and his father, w “It’s possible to spend an entire life looking at something, and, even then, fail to behold it in any meaningful way. “ This is more like three and a half stars(the second half is not quite as strong as the first half), but I haven’t enjoyed the writing in a book this much in a long time. Matt, the main character believes he has a claim to a painting that was taken by the Nazis right before Hungary fell to the Germans. Matt does not know how his family came to own the painting, and his father, who he is not close to, will not tell him. It’s difficult to write more about this book without giving anything away. The book has some interesting twists that I wasn’t expecting. I was very moved by Matt’s attempts to understand his father. Also, there really is a Memento Park in Hungary that has some enormous statues from the Communist Era.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    https://cavebookreviews.blogspot.com/ Mark Santos, born Mathias Santos, is a successful character actor living in Los Angeles with his fiance, Tracy, who is a sought-after catalog model. Mark and Tracy's careers aren't unusual for people who live in L.A., the hub of the entertainment industry in the USA. Mark Sarvas's new novel, MEMENTO PARK, is a vibrant rendition of a family who fled Hungary just as Hitler was about to overtake the country. The storyteller is Mark, the son of Gabor Szántós who https://cavebookreviews.blogspot.com/ Mark Santos, born Mathias Santos, is a successful character actor living in Los Angeles with his fiance, Tracy, who is a sought-after catalog model. Mark and Tracy's careers aren't unusual for people who live in L.A., the hub of the entertainment industry in the USA. Mark Sarvas's new novel, MEMENTO PARK, is a vibrant rendition of a family who fled Hungary just as Hitler was about to overtake the country. The storyteller is Mark, the son of Gabor Szántós who was a boy when he arrived in the USA. Much of the book is about Matt's struggle with his father. He loved him, and he hated him. It could be anyone's story, and that in itself makes the book quite a fascinating read. Mark ruminates over his life story during one night as he sits with a precious work of art, "Budapest Street Scene," in an auction house. He is alone except for the guard, and the painting that has come into his possession through the efforts of restoring stolen articles from the Jewish population by Hitler's regime. Mark received a call from the Australian Embassy informing him that they were in possession of the painting and would be shipping it to him as his father told them he wasn't interested in having it. Mark has puzzled over his father nearly all his life. He wants his approval, but it is always just out of his reach. If he gets a choice part he auditioned for; his father only wants to know, "how much?" It seems that the only part of Mark's life that his father approves of is his fiance, Tracy. Mark has a similar relationship with his mother who divorced his father five years ago. She lives in Paris and is thoroughly enjoying her freedom from family life. She has let go, and Mark can't count on her for any family history. He wants to know more about this painting that belonged to his family. He wants to know more about his family history, and this is where we delve into the meat of the story. Mark begins with his acquaintance of a lawyer named Rachel to look into his Jewish background, another aspect of his father's life that is a black hole of mystery with vague answers at each turn. Mark's story reveals itself in slow, precise vignettes of memory that come together with his trip to Budapest and to New York where his father still lives. The story could be heartbreaking, but Mark Sarvas has fine-tuned his novel into a universal story of human history and a personal family history that is perfect in its presentation. Everyone will find something to ponder and appreciate in this brilliant new novel. Thank you to the publisher through NetGalley for the opportunity to read this ARC and offer a response. The publish date for MEMENTO PARK is March 13, 2018.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    A haunting elegy about fathers and sons, faith, and a painting with a past. Beautifully written and quir moving.

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