Let’s review the bookish quick facts and synopsis really quick and then I’ll share my thoughts:
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: Stella Maris
- Series: The Passenger #2
- Author: Cormac McCarthy
- Publisher & Release: Knopf, 2022
- Length: 208 pages
- Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ not for me, I don’t know. For someone with different interests
Here’s the synopsis VIA Am*ZON
The second volume of The Passenger series: Stella Maris is an intimate portrait of grief and longing, as a young woman in a psychiatric facility seeks to understand her own existence.
1972, BLACK RIVER FALLS, WISCONSIN: Alicia Western, twenty years old, with forty thousand dollars in a plastic bag, admits herself to the hospital. A doctoral candidate in mathematics at the University of Chicago, Alicia has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and she does not want to talk about her brother, Bobby. Instead, she contemplates the nature of madness, the human insistence on one common experience of the world; she recalls a childhood where, by the age of seven, her own grandmother feared for her; she surveys the intersection of physics and philosophy; and she introduces her cohorts, her chimeras, the hallucinations that only she can see. All the while, she grieves for Bobby, not quite dead, not quite hers. Told entirely through the transcripts of Alicia’s psychiatric sessions, Stella Maris is a searching, rigorous, intellectually challenging coda to The Passenger, a philosophical inquiry that questions our notions of God, truth, and existence.
Here we go: unfortunately as much as I anticipated and waited and wanted to love these books, they went over my head and that’s fine. I’m not here for deep literary analysis at this point in my life, or at least not like this. I have no knowledge of math history or abstract physics and that’s ok too. To me, this added nothing to book one except that Alicia truly needed to be committed and Bobby was equally nuts.
I couldn’t stay awake reading the text. The audiobook only put me to sleep 4-5 times so I did eventually get through it, despite the length these books are A CHORE. I would stick to reading them in publication order though and if you really want to know more, McCarthy’s The Kekule Problem is an essay that could be additional reading between the two books.
Like any niche topic discussed in any book ever, the long talks about math and it’s history, physics, abstract psychology… who without any knowledge of the fact wants to read these discourses? McCarthy can study all the math he wants in his life but I can’t imagine he’s going to sell any new readers on his older books this way, it’s absolutely tedious for someone like me to read.
My mind doesn’t get that abstract. I don’t know anything about Platonism. I can’t wrap my mind around half of Alicia’s ideas, and I’m willing to let it all slide over my head and not be ashamed.
That said, why did we need two books for this story? I don’t feel like Alicia’s utter lack of humanity added anything to Bobby’s story. She’s absolutely bonkers and he comes across as even crazier for loving her back. Most of the “plot points” in Stella Maris were already hit in The Passenger. There was no further look at the characters mentioned in the asylum either which might have been interesting.
These books are full of the things that interested McCarthy throughout his life and old age. Maybe he wanted to deep dive into an abstract philosophical debate with himself. At least it was more palatable in audio form with the male and female narrators leaving no doubt who was speaking at any time. Ah yes, the text continues with the dialogue/no punctuation theme so while it flows, it’s an eye full.
And at the end of the day, Alicia can be whatever she wants from a literary standpoint but someone *that* smart should do exactly what the therapist said and realize that disappointment occurs, normal people get on with their lives. No you can’t have your brother’s kid, get over it. She should have been committed by age 12 and there’s no amount of brilliance related to math and physics that negates that fact.
Long story short I don’t feel much for Bobby in The Passenger or Alicia here in Stella Maris. Even on the basest level it was infuriating to read this discourse with Alicia when every other third sentence out of her mouth was a lie or her trying to bully/manipulate the interviewer. I deal with too much psych as is at the hospital and that’s enough for me without trying to make sense of this woman’s mind games too.
The whole project of these books is just a no for me. I liked many of his earlier works but this went far over my head and I’m ok with it staying there. I don’t regret putting out the cash for the hardcovers but I’ll pass them on and hope the next reader enjoys them more
Thanks for checking out my book review and thoughts on Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy. I purchased the hardcovers with my own money and all thoughts are as always, my own. I briefly listened to the audiobook as well which I obtained through my local library via Libby. Edoardo Ballerini and Julia Whelan are phenomenal narrators in their own right and did help the book but, I’m reviewing my main reading effort (the book)