Perched above the Indian Ocean and surrounded by lush foliage that blocks out everything but the sea--sweet frangipani, jasmine, and wild orchid--the Hotel Salama is an unlikely place to conduct research. Proud, sharp-tongued, and solitary by disposition, Ingrid Holtz arrives at the hotel in search of her professor, Nick Templeton, to whom she is drawn by interests of a more than academic nature. Templeton is a maverick, as much reviled for his unconventional methods as he is envied for his results. His latest theory has driven him to the island of Pelat, to unravel a legend about an ancient African king said to have brought Islam to the Swahili coast. No one has heard from him in months.
Tangled in a mystery whose clues lurk in the pages of the Koran, and transported into a world where women are possessed by spirit husbands and fresh curses are whispered over tea, Ingrid is forced to realize that there are many things she does not know about this man who inhabits her dreams and haunts her mind. With the help and hindrance of Finn Bergmann, the enigmatic son of the founder of Salama, she begins to uncover a web of alarming incidents. Templeton's research has carried him to the hot core of the island's darkest confrontation. How far will he go in his passion for the truth? What is he willing to do to protect his newfound faith--and where has he gone? Ingrid embarks on a quest that opens her heart and threatens to unravel her mind.
An epic tale of love and faith, An Obvious Enchantment marks the debut of a stunning new literary talent. It is a story about desire--for love, for knowledge, and for God--and about our capacity to ensnare ourselves in the deceptive architecture of our own dreams. Like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, it plunges you from the first page into a sensuous world of seductive characters and duplicitous charm, a world alive with color and atmosphere from which it is hard to emerge without wanting to return.
Religious mysticism, cultural anthropology and contemporary women's issues charge Malarkey's affecting first novel, an uncommon romance charting the restless intellect of an obsessive academic. Cultural anthropologist Ingrid Holtz convinces her university to fund a trip to Kenya's Swahili Coast, ostensibly to search for links between Egypt's monotheistic pharaoh Akhenaten and African Islam. Her ulterior motive is to search for her mentor, 60-year-old mad genius Nick Templeton, who has disappeared on a coastal island while investigating the origins of African Islam. The island of Pelat is itself a mystery: a cat-infested paradise torn between ancient tradition and modern progress since Swede Henrik Bergmann arrived many years before with his young son, Finn, and built the luxury hotel Salama (the Swahili word for peace). When Ingrid reaches the island, Stanley Wicks, an unscrupulous Brit, is erecting a new hotel in the village where devout islanders fled after Salama was built. Finn, raised by a local mystic, must seek middle ground in the battle between ancient mysteries and inevitable change; he keeps a protective eye on Ingrid as she looks for Templeton and finds her way to academic and personal growth. Ingrid and Templeton's research, guided by suspicious locals, barflies at Salama and passages of the Koran, gets foggy, sucking some thrill from the novel's final revelations. But Ingrid is a complex and seductive character who transcends those deficits, and her romance with Finn mostly sidesteps formula. Her preoccupation with truth invests this multifaceted, ambitious debut with a contemporary relevance. 7-city author tour. FYI: Malarkey is senior editor at the quarterly Tin House.