Rating: 4 1/2 stars (Spotlight Review)
The re-issue of Mark SaFranko’s powerful narrative, Hating Olivia, is proof that timing is everything. Written in a voice that echoes literary masters of the past, Olivia radiates with an identifiable heartbreaking nostalgia that renders its affect timeless.
Whether the book was previously well-received, a major flop or had just fallen through the cracks, I’d never hear of Mark SaFranko or his work. It was only by random communication that this was brought to my attention.
Seeming to be just another addition to the literary gridlock, I picked up Olivia for a cursory glance and before I could finish the first page, I knew this one was going to be different.
Max Zajack is consumed by his desire to write like the greats, to deliver something worth reading; something that will leave a stain. Max meets Olivia and together they share a love for literature and writing. Basking in the afterglow of their love for each other, they make promises in the dark of running off to Paris to write and live the life they were meant to have.
It’s not long before their physically-fueled obsession with each other turns dark and ugly. Without having written a word between them, the couple spirals into the depth of endless debt, as reality comes crashing down, ripping through the silver lining of their unrealized—and perhaps impossible dreams.
As Max and Olivia struggle to keep a roof over their heads, the threads of love snap under the strain and, although Max is finally able to put pen to paper, he can only watch helplessly as Olivia begins to slowly unravel.
Hating Olivia is so raw and passionate. Delving into crippling frustration, heartbreak and self-loathing with such surety and distinctness it leaves little doubt that this experience was lived, if not just in part, then certainly in its entirety.
Above all, Hating Olivia is a swift kick in the balls to modern fiction. SaFranko has created a true piece of literature; one that I think the masters would have been proud of.
Mark SaFranko has definitely left a stain.
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (November 16, 2010)