As She Climbed Across the Table

Quite by accident, a group of university physicists — screwballs all — punch a hole ”in the fabric of the universe.” Hovering just above a lab table, the black hole, dubbed Lack, turns out to be a finicky phenomenon, gobbling up an argyle sock and a cat, yet rejecting a bow tie and a plate of scrambled eggs. Particle physicist Alice Coombs decides Lack is a fabulous alien visitor. Worse, she falls deeply in love with the ”cosmic pothole.” Can Alice find romance with a perfect void? Can her boyfriend win her back? Can a novel with such a goofy premise sustain our interest? Amazingly, yes. Best of all, as this oddball tour de force begins to wind down, Lethem’s silliness turns unexpectedly touching. B+