Two narratives, one concerning Nazi spies and the other a troubled boy in contemporary Oregon, begin to converge at the halfway point in this novel of espionage, reincarnation and doomed romance.
For the first 100 pages, there is little to connect the two stories, told in alternating chapters. Recently widowed veterinarian Audra is coping with her 7-year-old son’s increasingly erratic behavior. Audra hopes moving cross-country will distance them from the pain of her husband’s death. The other story concerns Vivian, an American diplomat’s daughter, living in London on the eve of World War II. The independent Vivian is conducting an illicit affair with Issak, an American of Swiss descent, who is at university in London. As war becomes inevitable, Issak begs Vivian for help in relocating his family from Germany to Switzerland (he confesses to a lot of holes in his life story: His family is actually German, where they returned after his childhood in America; they’ve been forced by the Nazis to cooperate) by getting information from her father’s intel reports. Vivian is suspicious, but her love for Issak outweighs concerns for international security. As it happens, Vivian is sent back to America, and Issak, who promised to accompany her, is stuck in Germany trying to help his family. Back in Portland, Audra has read a book on the effects of reincarnation on children. The whole thing seems crazy to her, but then the details (Jack’s drawings of Nazis in electric chairs, his obsession with flying, his mumblings in what seem to be German) build a compelling case to a mother at wit’s end. When Audra shares her theories with Jack’s paternal grandparents, they sue her for custody of Jack. Audra feels that her only hope is to research the German name she has, with the help of wounded veteran Sean Malloy, a man Jack is inexplicably drawn to and, unbeknownst to everyone, Vivian’s grandson. Back in the States, Vivian works on a military base as a telephone operator, where she begins a romance with charming military intelligence officer Gene Sullivan. But then one day, Issak contacts her. He is in New York, sent by the Nazis as the head of a secret force sent to invade America. And he asks her to risk everything and trust him again.
McMorris’ strong pacing keeps the two stories zipping along and all its many strings connected for a gratifying conclusion.