At 15, Abigail Sorensen lost her brother, Robert, and someone started mailing her chapters of a curious book called The Guidebook. But what is it guiding her toward?
Twenty years later, now a single mother in Sydney, she is about to find out. Abigail, along with 25 other recipients of The Guidebook, has been invited on an all-expenses-paid vacation to Taylor Island, off the southeast coast of Australia. Their host, Wilbur, son of The Guidebook’s authors, promises to tell them (well, most of them) the truth. But the truth behind The Guidebook is more complex than any of them expected, and although Abigail leaves the resort disappointed, she soon finds that the path has only just begun. At times, Moriarty (The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars, 2018, etc.) tells Abigail’s story through short, impressionistic snippets, entwining first- and second-person perspectives that pull the reader into her life, as if we, too, were reading a new version of The Guidebook. Abigail’s view of the world is filtered through her wry sense of humor, giving Moriarty’s prose (well-honed through years as an award-winning YA writer) a style reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film, so even the most tragic events still carry a tinge of the absurd. Indeed, in Moriarty’s hands, the self-help genre gets a few jabs—when Abigail reads The Celestine Prophesy, for example, she looks for messages the next day only to have her 4-year-old son bring her lots of Cheerios and a co-worker remark that her dress doesn’t complement her skin tone. And The Guidebook itself is riddled with ridiculous observations and calls for silly experiments. Yet Abigail does receive messages, or at least experiences many more serendipitous events than your average person. But will the planets align to bring her love or danger? And how might The Guidebook help her solve the mystery of her brother’s disappearance?
Quirky and beguiling, this witty quest for the truth will delight anyone mending their own broken life.