In this novel, a young man finds a naked woman on his couch and must confront the possibility that she’s traveled through time.
Angus Wendell is a quietly ordinary man. He has an unspectacular job, lives alone in an apartment on Long Island, and possesses “a face no more arresting than the next one in the throng.” But his routine is thrown into disarray when one day he wakes up and spots a naked woman—a stranger—fast asleep on his couch. When she finally stirs, Sylvia Tipton, as astonished at the circumstances as Angus is, confesses she has no idea how she got there; the last thing she remembers is a terrible fire that consumed her grandfather. And then the shocking incident takes a turn for the weird: Sylvia claims to live in Brooklyn, but when Angus drives her to the address she provides, there’s a McDonald’s there. In addition, she’s never seen a cellphone before—or watched Star Wars—and seems wildly out of touch with the world. Finally, Angus discovers the source of her confusion: She thinks it’s 1943 (it’s actually 2014). But when Angus starts to check her claims, in particular regarding her family and the fire, he discovers they’re true. Even more startling, he inadvertently learns that he and Sylvia have a connection, which causes Angus to believe there’s something suspicious about the nature of his family’s business—the clan owns a museum and deals in antiquities. Marullo (Gludman’s Proof, 2013, etc.) masterfully presents a wildly implausible story in such a way that it seems possible—Sylvia is astonishingly convincing: “The ironclad sincerity through which she narrated events in her life made it feel natural to take everything she said as gospel.” And beneath the fantastical mystery and crime drama is a sensitive examination of Angus’ discontentment with life—he has a degree in art history and wants to pursue a career in that cosmos but is discouraged by his hilariously dysfunctional family. The author has an impressive talent for blending farcical comedy with emotional authenticity.
A refreshingly quirky and sharply written family tale.