A father finds himself drawn into the mystery of his sons’ disappearance after more than a decade of grieving their loss.
Hugh Mcpherson is a middle-aged man who lives in Los Angeles, assembling a quiet and mild-mannered life that conceals a reality-warping capacity for grief, guilt, and futile wallowing. Twelve years earlier, he left his 11-year-old twin sons surfing, challenging waves while he cheated on his wife. When he returned from the tryst, his sons had vanished, presumed drowned. Hugh’s wife, a Japanese woman whose father happens to be a famous author, left him to sink into despair. Now, Hugh returns to the beach and attempts to drown himself, setting off a sequence of events that makes him reconsider the strange elements of his sons’ disappearance and conveniently coincides with his ex-father-in-law’s visit to Los Angeles to finish a novel that bears a heavy-handed similarity to Hugh’s life. Nothing about this novel, or the novel within the novel—which appears in excerpts from the famous writer’s draft in progress—is subtle. Austin seems to aspire to the trappings of something by Haruki Murakami or William Gibson, incorporating surreal visions and a shadowy corporation that specializes in confusing reality, but he lacks the grace and force of imagination to shape them into a compelling story. The elements of Japanese culture come across as self-absorbed fantasies or assumptions. The writing itself is ponderous to the point of unintended comedy. A man’s bare chest is described as porpoise sleek, except for “bouquets of hair at his nipples.”
A clumsily written novel about grief, guilt, and redemption that somehow achieves emotional dullness, paying lip service to feeling without generating its own.