Mystery casts a 50-year shadow over a Toronto family, until letters out of the past take a middle-aged man on a quest for his long-lost uncle. When Leo Nolan's mother dies, her last wish is to see her baby brother Jack, who vanished into Ohio at age 23 during the height of the Depression. After her death, fifty-year-old letters from Jack inexplicably begin to arrive, placing him in Ashland, Kentucky, and spurring Leo to seek answers. He visits Jack's old hotel in Ashland, receiving a curious welcome from Stanley and Teresa, the elderly couple owning the place, who clearly know more about Jack than they're willing to say. Finally, Leo's wanderings in town take him into Woolworth's, where he meets pretty Jeanne, a lunch-counter waitress whom he gets to know better. But one night's ramble also brings a chance encounter with Jack, as the past and present suddenly coalesce. Leo follows his uncle on a walk, only to have him disappear into thin air; but their walk is repeated each night, until Leo finally speaks to him—and finds himself 50 years in the past. Without revealing who he is, Leo gains Jack's confidence, learning of the young man's affair with Teresa as well as of a desperate plan to tunnel from the hotel basement to the bank across the street. With heavy rains, the robbery becomes increasingly dangerous, and indeed the tunnel finally collapses, with Jack and two others inside. Thinking his uncle dead, Leo finds himself back in the present, but since still more old letters arrive to show that Jack somehow survived, he finds incentive to take care of his own affairs, romancing Jeanne and welcoming Jack and Teresa's secret daughter into the family. Hokey, sentimental, and at times implausible, yes, but with disbelief willingly suspended this second novel from Green (Barking Dogs, 1988) possesses enough quiet wonder and innocence to come pleasantly to life.
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