There was a lot to like about this book, but there were some major pieces that kept this from being a 5 star book for me.
The story starts with Adana Moreau in the Dominican Republic in the early 1900s. She meets her future husband who’s a modern day pirate. They move to New Orleans and start a new life together. Adana writes a science fiction novel that earns some prominence. Enough so that she starts penning a sequel. She becomes ill and decides to destroy the manuscript before her death. This is during the Great Depression and her son joins the many young people who ride the rails. Her son, however, is looking for his father who is supposed to meet him in Chicago. Upon arriving in Chicago he’s unable to meet his father. However he soon meets a young Jewish boy who brings him home and he and his father take of him for awhile. All of this is interwoven with a modern story in which Saul Drower is cleaning out his grandfather’s apartment. He finds a manuscript for a book and is supposed to send it a Professor Moreau. The manuscript is returned and Saul decides to find out where this man now lives. He tracks him down to New Orleans but this is during Hurricane Katrina (plot twist). There’s a lot of timeline jumping but suffice it to say that Saul Drower is connected to Adana Moreau, her son, and the lost manuscript.
I’m not a huge fan of timeline jumping nor am I a fan of deus ex machina and there’s a lot of that in this book. Even thought these elements aren’t my favorite, this was a fun read. It drew me in as I tried to figure out how all of the pieces fit together. The ending didn’t deliver on the anticipation that I had though. I never really figured out what was the point of the missing manuscript or the quest to get it back to Adana’s son. There wasn’t a good pay off.
What did impress me about this book was that it was a very American story. The meeting of different cultures from various parts of the world all trying to make a future in a country that welcomes them on one hand, but is prejudiced against their race and religion on the other. On that part, the author delivered an impressive read that represents the complexities of American society.
This would make a good book club read. There’s a lot to discuss and not a hard read at the same time. Plus there’s a lot of local history in New Orleans and Chicago, so if you live or are familiar with either of these regions then your book club might find it even more fascinating.