A surrealistic tale of picaresque adventures by a first-time novelist who is too often forced and coy. The Texas-born Jarrard, now a reporter for the International Herald Tribune in Paris, begins his story in that city, where one of the narrators, Marc, sees an old man resembling his missing grandfather. The man is part of a living art exhibit, and the museum, filled with mindless tourists and peculiar works of art, suggests a strangely confused world tottering toward the millennium. But these intimations of mortality are secondary to the stories the three narrators tell. Marc, inspired by his encounter, decides to spend the month in the country with his wife, new baby, and family, writing the story of his Texan grandfather, Ansel Gifford, who disappeared from their Paris home many years ago. Marc's story is as much about Marc (his brother's suicide, his long relationship with two bizarre women, and the events during his ongoing vacation) as it is about his grandfather. The tale is eventually taken up by Marc's father Henri, and then by grandfather Ansel. Henri, divorced from Marc's American mother, Frances, recalls how he set off to find the missing Ansel in Mexico, and the adventures, real and delusionary, he experienced as he tracked the old man to a small island about to be devastated by a hurricane. Ansel adds his bit as he tells the story of meeting Violetta, the love of his life, in Venice on his first trip abroad; their happy marriage in a small Texas town; and the tedious life with his daughter and family in Paris that led to his flight to Mexico and the arms of a good-hearted Gargantua, Sarah. Their stories told, all three admit to a certain contentment with their lives: Henri in the islands, Marc in Paris, and Ansel with Sarah. Jarrard's debut, though, perhaps through trying too hard to impress, comes off as a wannabe macho romp with intellectual pretensions.
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