This literary family saga (272 pages) was published in February of 2020 by Hanover Square Press. The book takes you to New Orleans past and present. Melissa read The Lost Book of Adana Moreau and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
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This luminous novel weaves sci-fi and historical fiction to transform a gripping adventure story into something elegant, layered, and lingering. At its core, it’s the story of two lifelong friends determined to return a book manuscript to the deceased author’s son.
But before we meet those two, the story takes us back to 1916 in the Dominican Republic, where we meet a headstrong little girl named Adana Moreau. She’ll eventually grow up to be a headstrong woman, a mother, and the author of a blockbuster science fiction novel called Lost City. But when she falls ill while writing its sequel, she’ll burn the only manuscript of her second book, and that will be that.
Until 2005, in Chicago, when Saul, grieving the recent death of his grandfather, will discover a manuscript for the book that would have been A Model Earth by Adana Moreau — the book that was purportedly burned. Saul then falls down the rabbit hole of the mysteries surrounding the author and her work; he and his best friend Javier make it their mission to return the manuscript to the author’s elderly son Maxwell who lives in New Orleans. There’s just one major problem: Hurricane Katrina has recently wreaked havoc on the city, and it’s nearly impossible to find anyone.
If you love novels in which characters set out on a maybe-irresponsible or seemingly impossible quest to do something that means everything to them, this is the book for you. The earnestness and commitment with which Saul undertakes this task are as relatable as it is foolhardy.
But this novel does other things very well, too. Surprisingly, it uses science to elicit emotion, making the notion of a multiverse both appealing and agonizing. It also weaves stories within stories so that every character — from our heroes to the people they meet along their journey — is intentional and memorable.
The author, Michael Zapata, elegantly threads historical details in the narrative so that context is right there when you need it. There are invasions and pogroms and touching accounts of Hurricane Katrina — both the tragedy and the heroic acts of people in the wake of the storm.
And his love for the science fiction tradition shines in the plot of the made-up novels Lost City and A Model Earth and the real-life sci-fi classics sprinkled throughout the text like literary confetti.
This book is an affecting examination of what home means to us and how stories help us navigate the world. It explores grief and loneliness and plays around with the idea of parallel worlds that shimmer with love and possibility.
They passed Crystal Spring, Bogue Chitto, and Amite City. The sun was white and volatile, like camphor. At one in the afternoon, they passed Ponchatoula. Then the highway began to climb before turning into a series of long bridges that shot straight through a half submerged, half wild landscape full of waterways and dark green islets and swamps with colossus cypress trees broken like toothpicks and shacks in various stages of ruin. On the half-sunken tin roof of one shack, an egret stood motionless, its spear-like beak aimed at something below the still surface of the water, its hesitance and vulnerability constituting a state of grace. To the south, power lines ran through the swamplands and parallel to a rail line, where it was possible to make out the silver flash of an Amtrak train. At some point, they merged onto I-10 and joined the flatbed trucks and work vans and emergency vehicles all heading east, toward the swaying, rippling city of New Orleans, like a procession of sad caravans. — Michael Zapata
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