Nathan Price, a professor in the sociology department at the University of Chicago, is a promising academic with several publications to his credit. Although he appears to live a comfortable life, he’s become cynical and disillusioned with academia. He’s also struggling to come to terms with the disappearance of his close friend Jamie Mackinnon. On the eve of his sabbatical from the university, Nathan discovers a letter dated May 22, 1692, written by Jamie to a woman named Ester Haraden Porter. In the letter, Jamie professes his love for Ester and tells her he has found peace in the town of Carthage, Wisconsin. The letter prompts Nathan’s decision to travel to Carthage. Once he arrives, he’s taken with the town and quickly befriends a local man named Eric and his daughter, Carlie, as well as an older woman named Hilde. Nathan is also drawn to a woman named Alanna Amsel. While Nathan pursues his investigation into Jamie’s disappearance, he learns that Jamie, along with many of the residents of Carthage, was a “Flector,” a person with the ability to bend the course of historical events. When Alanna disappears, Nathan must travel back in time to save her. Buoyed by a complex hero, Zenos’ audacious novel is a compelling mix of academic satire and time-travel adventure. Nathan is grappling not only with disillusionment of academia; he’s also struggling with mental illness. He’s wary of forming relationships until he meets Alanna, who can empathize with his situation. Their budding relationship is passionate and emotionally dynamic, and they’re surrounded by well-developed supporting characters, including Alanna’s godmother, Hilde, and Jack, a teenager whose tough background belies a promising academic future. Despite some nicely paced action sequences in Carthage and Salem Village, the explanation for the town’s mysterious source of wealth is a bit predictable.
A fast-paced narrative in a town full of intriguing, well-developed supporting characters, though the story is weighed down by a premise that occasionally strains credulity.