St. Martin’s. Jul. 2020. 384p. ISBN 9781250259042. $26.99. F
DEBUT This highly imaginative novel allows the reader to decide the order of the narrative. Read sequentially, the book is a related set of intersecting tales. Read as defined by a note to the reader, the book assumes an interleaved wholeness, with the end of the story occurring in the middle. The premise of the tale is the existence of the human ability to “cross,” that is, to switch consciousness between two bodies. This first occurs on a remote Pacific isle where a Native, Koahu, crosses with a French ship’s doctor. A second islander, Alula, crosses with a seaman from the same ship to pursue Koahu, her soul mate. Thus begins the world- and time-spanning journey of Alula pursuing Koahu. Multiple lives are touched through multiple crossings, including those of the famous poet Charles Baudelaire and his lover Madeleine. The narrative is made more complex by a malevolent force pursuing the original lovers.
VERDICT This novel is outstanding for its sheer inventiveness. The alternative ordering of chapters creates a tension that heightens the awareness of the interlocking aspects of time and space, while deft writing seduces the reader in a complex tale of pursuit, denial, and retribution moving from past to future. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 1/15/20.]
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