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Sunday, April 18, 2021

‘Synchronicity’ by Lynne Ramsay: Is the ending all there is?

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“Synchronicity” is a riff on the time-travel motif that is among our human (and squid) brothers and sisters. That meaning makes sense. We go around the clock in life as we experience physical and mental changes that manifest themselves as one time-gap or another.

What distinguishes “Synchronicity” from other works of fiction or speculative fiction is how it mimics itself while ignoring its conventional impulses. It’s a soap opera that seems to have two plots — one about finding love, the other about finding corpses.

Jenna Bass, in bright red lipstick and tight indigo jeans, spends most of the narrative bouncing around Manhattan from her perch atop the penthouse. But by the end of the book, everyone she meets has vanished. At one point she even feeds herself meat to keep her hunger intact.

She reconnects with John Hopper, her most beloved high school teacher who died in a tragic accident. He had encountered the same fate at the hands of accident-prone architect Marjorie Booth before he and Jenna fell in love. That death sends the lovers plummeting down a staircase. In “Synchronicity,” Marjorie’s puzzle-box chalet turned out to be an absurdist epic, one that she could make all on her own.

With so many plot changes and set-pieces throughout the book, writer-director Lynne Ramsay (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”) has a lot of physical and mental moves to make. Her first camera move in “Synchronicity” goes through a portal into the future, where enough blood (and some corpses) has been spilled to keep a modern city and its visitors at bay. It is, literally, a stunning yet unsettling trick.

The visions that are involved in “Synchronicity” don’t just lie a few seconds in the future or millennia in the past. Some plot points, which bring these questions to light, seem to be time puzzles themselves.

But who knows why they’re doing it or what they’re thinking? The story hinges on our voyages as human beings, and even if that’s not the only thing this novel does, it does make a memorable first impression.

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