Andrea Barbosa’s novel Massive Black Hole is an engaging work of spiritual fiction based around the intertwining lives of three female friends in New York: Agatha from Houston, Cibele from Rio, and Amy from New York. The massive black hole of the title is a reference to the Pseudo-Bosch painting Christ’s Descent into Hell which is a major motif in the story. Art and prose are not the only cultural forms present in the novel as there are also a few of Barbosa’s poems in the text. Barbosa is a long-term resident of the United States, although born in Brazil. She cites fellow Brazilian author Paolo Coelho as a major influence and it is evident in this novel with its narrative that wanders from the sacred to the mundane to the highly figurative.
Massive Black Hole is clearly within the realms of literary fiction, but those who like a lyrical style will be disappointed. Despite Barbosa’s poetic abilities (she also has a poetry collection: Holes in Space) this novel is written in a quite prosaic manner. In addition there are a large number of typographical errors that might put off literary fiction readers, who tend to have a lower tolerance for such problems. Another area in which this novel may disappoint the literary set is that Barbosa tends to explain why a character is acting in a certain way rather than allowing the reader to glean that from the narrative.
There are problems with Barbosa’s style but persevering with the novel is well worth the effort. The dénouement is very interesting and should leave most readers with a positive response to the novel. Certainly for me the ending justifies the means.