A psychology professor encounters a teenage girl who exists as multiple incarnations, each living in a separate reality.
During a sudden downpour in 1967, Garrett Adams is browsing in a crowded bookshop on Columbus Circle when a crowd of people push in to escape the rain. As he starts reading a book about Schrödinger—he of the famous cat-in-a-box thought experiment—Garrett impulsively decides to ask any customer to lunch who also comes and picks up the book, hoping for an impromptu discussion about philosophy. When the next taker turns out to be a teenage girl named Daphne, Garrett strikes up an unlikely friendship with the precocious young woman. Soon after meeting, the two visit an art gallery and encounter a painting that is, without question, of Daphne. The only trouble is, she insists she never sat for it. When Garrett makes a visit to the artist, he learns Daphne was in Boston with the painter at the exact same time that Garrett visited the New York gallery—with Daphne. Thus begins Garrett’s wild journey to put together the pieces of how Daphne can seem to be two (and later more) people at the same time. With the help of the gallery owner and an old college friend who now practices psychotherapy, Garrett follows his Alice, or Alices, down the rabbit hole of late 1960s youth culture. Brett, who has written a critical study of postmodern fiction (Disquiet on the Western Front, 2016), has hit upon an immensely interesting concept for her debut novel, one that allows her to dig deep into psychology, philosophy, physics, and, most importantly, politics as Daphne shakes Garrett out of his indifference toward the cultural turmoil of the late '60s. But the book wears its historical details stiffly, and the book’s idea-heavy passages work against the plot’s natural momentum.
A promising premise that is sometimes too clever for its own good.