An old man and a young woman sit next to each other on a flight. When the man dies and the woman walks off with a small wooden box he'd been carrying to show his son, their parallel personal histories become entwined, showing the serendipity of life.
This is a small novel with significant depth. Fàbregas has crafted a story of connectedness using language (Spanish, Dutch—and now English in translation) to take the sting out of the chaos of living. A Dutch woman speaks with a Spanish man on a flight to Amsterdam, and when he dies upon landing we become witness to two parallel lives—the man’s recounting of his marriage and family and the search the woman has been on for years now, looking for the “angel” who saved her life as a girl when her own sense of family was lost. The woman meets the man's son as the novel nears a close, learning he has been looking for her to find out about the last moments of his father’s life. Names become important in both searches as links, as clues. The unnamed dead man’s son, Arjen, has the first name of the young man who reached into a burning automobile and carried the woman, then an 8-year-old girl, to safety, though she was made an orphan in the accident. A list of names of "ONE HUNDRED PEOPLE” becomes the Holy Grail when, four years later, the girl, now 12, returns to the town where the accident occurred and cajoles the authorities for a list of names—those who may have been witnesses—and then begins her long quest to find her savior. Fàbregas uses alternating chapters for first-person narration of each protagonist’s story. Chapters labeled “Him” tell the tale of an emigrant from Spain to Holland, working in the Philips television factory to fund his family back home. He finds love and marries Willemien, and their life together is one of bitterly sweet challenges. “Her” chapters reveal the young woman presumably in search of her “angel” but truly in search of herself.
A finely crafted novel of either serendipity or fate—we never know.