I’ve been sitting on my review of this one for a little while, not quite sure about what I want to say or how I want to say it. I do know that I’m so grateful for other reviewers like Fiat.Luxury, badkittyuno, and narfna for bringing it to my attention. I love when a book I knew nothing about, had never seen or heard about, suddenly jumps onto my radar when someone whose book opinions I trust talks about it.
The Unseen World has a lot going on, but never feels overwhelming or too busy. It tells a lot of story at a very leisurely pace, jumping from the 1920s, to the 50s, to the 80s, to the early 2000s, and then into the future. And yet, I was never confused about where or when the story was taking place.
David Sibelius is a quirky computer scientist who runs a world-renowned lab in the Boston area (at a school quite like MIT) that researches the capability of artificial intelligence to learn language skills. He works with other brilliant researchers, including his young daughter, Ada.
Ada has never been to school, doesn’t socialize with other kids, and spends every moment of her life with David, either at his lab or at their eccentric home in Savin Hill, a secluded beach neighborhood of Boston. At 12 years old, Ada sometimes wonders about life outside of the lab: What would it be like to be pretty? What would happen if handsome William Liston (son of David’s best friend and second-in-command at the lab, Liston) were to notice her?
But mostly, Ada just spends time learning from David and having “conversations” with his computer program, code named ELIXIR. Until one day, David disappears and Ada’s life changes in an instant. It turns out that maybe David isn’t exactly who he has claimed to be…but why? What secrets does he have, and how will they affect Ada’s future?
This was a very well-told story. Even when nothing much was happening — evenings when Ada watches TV with Matty Liston, making a lobster dinner for David’s colleagues, drama in the high school cafeteria, angst at her job — it was compulsively readable. The reader knows that David’s mystery will eventually be solved, but until then, every single detail is a potential clue to the truth.
I loved that the bulk of the book was set in the 1980s in the Boston area, as that lined up pretty closely to my personal life. I know Savin Hill, I know Quincy, and I definitely know what school Ada ends up going to (I used to wonder about the weird playground on the roof!). And the 80s was really the last era were kids had the freedom that Ada describes, to wander around your neighborhood at night, to go places alone without strange adults prying into why or where you are going, the great age before cell phones.
I know I’ve been exceptionally vague about the story and plot, but really, you don’t want to know more going into it. I kept trying to guess the ending, and it really took me quite a while to even come close. I’ll be sure to pick up other books by Liz Moore as soon as I can.