Four of Fools by Evelin Sullivan
Review by Diane Wilkes
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Always on the lookout for tarot-related fiction, I was thrilled
a hardcover version of Four of Fools in the bargain bin. The description
on the flyleaf not only mentioned tarot, but one of the characters is
trying to research synchronicity through tarot and other methods.
But I was also a bit hesitant to actually start the book. I've been burned
before, with books displaying tarot images on the cover and maybe having
one or two sentences having anything whatever to do with the cards,
symbols, or meaning.
This book, more than any I've read, contains specific tarot imagery, both
overt and indirect, as well as several card readings. Ironically, this
diverted me somewhat from being really engaged in the plot, as I was
constantly going into reveries regarding different subtle references to
cards and images.
Speaking of plot, three Americans go to Italy: Vida, to write about
Geoffrey Fry, the man working on the theory of coincidence, John, her
husband, a defrocked (okay, derobed) history professor, and their friend,
Jim, who is always up for adventure. But nothing is as it seems about any
of the characters (the four Fools), and the last 70 pages, perhaps because
the tarot imagery is more hidden, are quite gripping.
Ms. Sullivan understands a great deal about the mystery of tarot. I didn't
want to shake her and say, "Why on earth would you say that about (insert
name of card here)," as I so often do when reading fiction with a tarot
My only gripe is personal, not professional; there seemed to be a
degradation of the human spirit that I deplore when I come across in
novels; still, unlike Lorrie Moore and Mary Gaitskill, who come to mind as
authors who create unmemorable, mildly foul characters, the antagonist is
unique and powerfully despicable, once you realize who it is.
"I had never seen tarot cards,
and I was fascinated by their colorful
iconography, the wealth of symbols and attitudes of the figures. The card
that first caught my attention depicted a figure sitting up in bed and
covering its face with both hands as if consumed by the deepest sorrow.
Mounted horizontally behind the figure was a grid of broadswords. Another
sword card showed a man holding three swords while the swords of two men in
the background were lying on the ground. But two other cards, both in the
vertical row, arrested my roaming eye. One garishly depicted the devil,
all hair and horns and malice, seated on a throne, the chained, naked
figures of a man and a woman at his feet; the other showed a young man in a
short tunic and soft boots, carrying a satchel on a stick on his shoulder
and a rose in his raised hand. He was light-footed, frozen in a skip or
dance; his eyes were on the sky, but at his feet was a precipice and one
step further would propel him off the edge of the cliff. It seemed to me
that these were not happy cards and I felt the stirring of a superstitious
regret at having asked, of all possible things, a question about happiness."
p. 85, Four of Fools
If you are interested in purchasing this book, click