Adams-Little tells of a young American woman searching for the secrets of her South American past in this debut novel.
Virtuosic astrophysicist Joanna Nickels-Stewart is shocked to learn that she might be adopted. She was raised thinking that she was the daughter of Virginia bluebloods, but a document sent to her prospective father-in-law, a U.S. senator, suggests that she was actually born in Lima, Peru. Now the senator wants Joanna to prove that she’s white enough to marry his son, the scion of a long line of respectable Southern gentlemen. Joanna asks her parents about it, only to have them confirm the news: “You were born in a hospital…in Lima to—to a woman of Hispanic lineage and a man who was a Quechua Indian.” When another letter arrives inviting Joanna to do postdoctoral work at the National Astronomical Observatory in Cuzco, she seizes the opportunity to learn more about her origins. Her fiance, Michael, reacts poorly to the entire affair, but the trip gives her a chance to reunite with her old boarding school friend, Rosa, and Rosa’s brother, Carlos, who has connections among the Quechuas. In her search for her birth parents, Joanna encounters the history of the acllas, the virginal priestesses of an ancient Inca moon goddess who were often married to the sons of royal families. They relate to a myth that a mysterious nun named Sister Elena believes, which may hold the keys to Joanna’s past and future. Adams-Little is an assured, accessible writer who pulls the reader along with conversational prose that’s subtly calibrated to the shifting emotions of the story. Many aspects of the narrative—including the inciting incident, Joanna’s relationship to her family, and several complicating twists—undermine the story’s verisimilitude. However, the mystery itself is actually quite compelling. The author manages to weave in the history of the Inca people as well as that of the Catholic Church in Peru. Overall, although the plot ends up in some ridiculous places, the reading experience as a whole is mostly an enjoyable one.
An often engaging mystery, set against the indigenous cultures of Peru.