The Night Ocean takes its title from a short story co-authored by H.P. Lovecraft and his teenaged fan Robert H. Barlow, whom Lovecraft visited in Florida in the summers of 1934 and ’35. In the novel, a journalist named Charlie Willett tries to get to the truth of Lovecraft and Barlow’s relationship—were they lovers?—and after several reversals of fortune ends up in a mental hospital. Then he apparently commits suicide. Then his wife, Marina, the novel’s narrator, gets emailed a photo of “a stretch of nearly black sand, and, beyond it, an indigo ocean,” that she thinks might be from Charlie. Then things get weird.
This may sound like the outline of the kind of horror story that Lovecraft himself would write, and for the first few chapters of The Night Ocean it seems like La Farge might be going that way. But as I note in the intro to our interview, this is one of those books that’s impossible to categorize, and part of the fun of reading it is never being sure what genre you’re in. Just trust me, it’s an awesome read with some great characters—and as with Lovecraft Country, you don’t need to be a Lovecraft fan to enjoy it.