Self-Portrait with Nothing

Tor.com. Oct. 2022. 304p. ISBN 9781250820846. $26.99. SF
DEBUT A baby is abandoned in a dog bed on the front porch at the home of two female veterinarians, who quickly decide to keep the baby and name her Pepper. Pepper grows up at the veterinary clinic, learning to care for the animals. As a young teenager, Pepper observes Tilda Hogan, frequent visitor to the clinic and also sister to Ula Frost, a famous but reclusive portrait painter, inserting a package in the family mailbox that includes a large check for Pepper. From that moment, Pepper suspects that her biological mother is Ula, but relates her suspicions to no one. Ula paints self-portraits set in local landscapes, but with slight differences, such as including trees in a field that has no trees. Some claim that her portraits summon subjects from parallel universes. When Ula disappears, Pepper’s subsequent hunt for her is affected by many weird and wonderful factors, including the possibility of a multiverse.
VERDICT Pokwatka’s debut is a unique and well-plotted story with many twists and turns. Recommended for science fiction fans, but it will also appeal to a wider audience.
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