A British journalist and a Canadian carpenter discover the murky union between their parents during the quest to solve an old mystery.
Here’s a cultural stew for you: a novel by bestselling French novelist Levy (Hope, 2016, etc.) with a translation by Wasserman, a former film professional, starring two charming leads saddled with Beatles-esque names, set largely in the cinematically dreary city of Baltimore, Maryland. That’s the scene for Levy’s sprawling familial saga that spans three generations and time periods and leaps between points of view with abandon. Eleanor-Rigby “Elby” Donovan is a journalist for National Geographic, still mourning the loss of her mother, who recently passed away, and tending to her idiosyncratic father and a pair of odd-duck siblings. Her proclamation early in the book is prescient: “The strange part is that it took traveling to the ends of the earth for me to realize that what I was looking for was right there in front of me the whole time. All I had to do was open my eyes and start noticing the wonder of the world outside my front door.” Her adventure begins when she receives an anonymous letter hinting of secrets in her mother’s past and pointing her toward clues to her mum’s true nature. Simultaneously, in Quebec, handsome young carpenter George-Harrison Collins receives a similar letter hinting at the truth about the father he never knew. Between his characters' present-day meet-cute introduction and their discovery of an eccentric professor who holds the answers to their familial drama, Levy inserts a wartime story set in 1944 about a wealthy Maryland family and another sequence set in 1980 that explores the mysterious circumstances binding Elby's and George-Harrison’s families together. By modern standards, it sets a rather frothy, picaresque tone for a mystery novel, but readers looking for something light will find it an amusing indulgence.
An overstuffed but breezy family drama that plays out its familiar narrative beats right on time.