Now in his late 70s, Least Heat-Moon ventures for the first time into fiction writing, and as one might expect from the author of Blue Highways (1982), the narrative involves both a journey and the musings of a philosophical mind.
Silas Fortunato is indeed fortunate to run into Dominique “Dolores” Heppermann in a random encounter, and he’s immediately intrigued, feeling he’s perhaps found a soul mate and sharer of his metaphysical meanderings. Silas courts her in his quirky and esoteric way, trying to engage her interest in compasses and armillary spheres. Eventually they marry and live in Old Sachem Hill, his ancestral home. Silas self-identifies as a “Cosmoterian”—someone who sees all existence as omnipotent—yet this scarcely clarifies the arcane nature of his beliefs. When Dominique’s sister Celeste, an aspiring nun questioning her vocation, comes to visit, Silas begins to see that he has more in common with his sister-in-law than with his wife. In fact, Dominique starts to break away from Silas’ effusive and unconventional intellect by taking a job as a real estate agent. She does well, but while at a convention in Las Vegas with her boss, she takes off in a private plane that mysteriously disappears. Deeply concerned, Silas hires detective Chamberlain Beckett to find out what happened, but during Beckett’s investigation Silas goes on a balloon ride and is injured in a fall. Celeste returns from the convent to help tend him, and despite (or perhaps because of) Silas’ growing depression, they begin to realize deeper feelings for each other. All this is rather fey, episodic, and unrestrained. Least Heat-Moon relies on lots of talk to convey a sense of character, and too often the talk is not terribly engaging, sometimes to the participants and, alas, often to the reader.
An exuberant but ultimately self-indulgent engagement with esoterica.