With a weakness for scotch and a few lingering wounds from a bad divorce, Brandon Mann is a history professor and doctorate student specializing in the mythology of djinn, or genies. He and his younger girlfriend, Julia Venegas, a university student and waitress with a good reason to fear losing the ones she loves, have just moved in together into Brandon’s late grandmother’s house in the sleepy town of Companion. Unbeknownst to them, the clock on the mantle—an heirloom with Spanish conquistador origins—is home to a devious djinni named Zuba, and on one of the first nights in their new home, a seemingly harmless lover’s game has wicked consequences. Julia forgets Brandon, and he is forced to relive the same day until he can figure out how to win her back and break the loop. Amiama’s book wastes no time, diving right into the thick of this repeating alternate reality from Page 1. That can make for an overwhelming beginning few chapters, but in a feat of impressive storytelling, the explanation comes in bits and pieces along the way. Likably flawed Brandon tries and fails again and again to win back his amnesiac partner, no thanks to Zuba and his questionable advice, but it’s when the narrative focus shifts away from him to Julia that the novel goes from fairly interesting to fully engrossing. Unfortunately, by the time she takes the reins, there isn’t much book left for her to develop the same depth that Brandon enjoys. Julia ends up feeling unfinished and underutilized—a shame, since she arguably has the more complicated storyline. The ending feels a little rushed, too; a more daring denouement might have been more fitting, but it’s a well-crafted tale nonetheless.
An absorbing Groundhog Day–like drama with a mystical twist.