Issues of faith and will are at the center of this meditative tale set in London, New York, and Moscow--a striking work in the author's signature style. Tall, dark Claire is a lapsed Catholic and survivor of her husband's suicide. Somehow she is not surprised when, while she's off with her lover for a weekend in the English countryside, her 16-year-old daughter back in London is raped. Claire tries to atone for her neglect by cutting off her own personal life in service of her daughter, Rachel; when the girl learns she is pregnant and decides to keep the child, Claire quietly arranges for a leave of absence from school, sets aside her own academic research on the works of a minor (and suicidal) Italian Renaissance artist, and devotes herself to instilling in her broken daughter the will to go on. Meanwhile, in New York, a melancholy young editor of art books, caught in a meaningless affair with a willful young Englishwoman and grieving over the suicide of his soulful Russian-American cousin, seeks distraction in an unexpected transfer to London. There he meets Claire and Rachel and, sensing that his vague but urgent search for meaning melds uniquely with theirs, agrees to go with them to Russia to seek out a long-lost painting of the Annunciation by Claire's Italian artist. Carefully as the protagonists plan their journey, events in chaotic Russia soon overwhelm them--until the sight of the painting, which takes place in near-miraculous circumstances, offers solutions to their lives they that never could have reached on their own. Plante's (The Accident, 1991, etc.) characters may be mere ciphers for the more multidimensional philosophical issues he seeks to explore--guilt and redemption, faith versus rationalism, will versus despair--but his ruminations remain so stimulating that a certain lack of credibility is beside the point. Excellent intellectual escapism, and classic Plante.