THE PERUVIAN BOOK OF THE DEAD

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On a dark, rainy night in early November, John Brisdon Noxon, a middle-aged art curator, disappears. His wife, Imogen, finds his hidden journals, including one detailing Brisdon’s trip to Peru as a young student—and his passionate affair with a local artist, César, which ended in tragedy. Each journal entry is addressed to Karen, Brisdon’s twin sister, who disappeared when the siblings were 5 years old. Fifteen years later, Imogen and her partner, Max, gather their family around them to commemorate the closing of their lakeside resort, the Sheltering Arms. That weekend, the mysteries of Brisdon’s disappearance—and of his sister’s—are illuminated in a series of haunting revelations. The novel weaves together four points of view: Brisdon as a young man lived in the shadow of his sister’s disappearance and haunted by the death of his parents in a plane crash. In Peru, he falls in love with César Acosta, heedless of the dangerous political climate, and is devastated by the atrocity that tears them apart. César, haunted by the same memories (and harboring a few secrets of his own), transforms into the reclusive artist CÁLA. Margaret, Brisdon’s Scottish mother (once a lively young woman, now a disturbed, paranoid personality), details the events leading up to the disappearance of her daughter. Finally, Imogen, surrounded by her loved ones, is left to pick up the pieces the others have left behind. The four storylines frequently overlap, and several scenes are depicted more than once from different perspectives; as in Rashomon, instead of feeling redundant, the repetitions add depth and nuance. The settings, ranging from postwar Scotland to rural Peru to a remote Ontario lake, provide evocative, moody backdrops for the story. “As we drove on, Lima felt ominous in the dim light–a polluted, dry, decaying insomniac of a metropolis.” The characters baffle and infuriate, like real people, and the unlikely series of coincidences at the end add to the uncanny, mystical feel.



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