One of the most original, dazzling, and critically acclaimed debut novels this year.
In this debut novel, hailed by Stephen King as ?terrifying, touching, and wildly funny,? the stories of two strangers, Eugene Brentani and Mr. Schmitz, interweave. What unfolds is a bold reinvention of storytelling in which Eugene, a devotee of the reclusive and monstrous author, Constance Eakins, and Mr. Schmitz, who has been receiving ominous letters from an old friend, embark from New York for Italy, where the line between imagination and reality begins to blur and stories take on a life of their own.
Two parallel missing person searches hurtle from New York to Italy in Paris Review editor Rich's surreal debut. Eugene Brentani, avoiding his lonely father and Sutton Place upbringing just after college, ends up in far Northern Manhattan working for Abraham Chisholm, the biographer of Connie Eakins the author on whom Eugene wrote his college thesis. Abraham's lovely daughter, Sonia, goes missing in Italy while searching for the presumed-dead Eakins; Eugene, who met Sonia in New York and fell instantly in love with her, jumps at the opportunity to retrieve her. Once in Milan, Eugene finds danger lurking around every corner. Alternating chapters tell of elderly New York widower Mr. Schmitz (as he's called throughout), whose friend Rutherford has left for Italy, and whose letters from there are troubling. Mr. Schmitz sets off for Milan, partially to help Rutherford reclaim the Italy the two men knew as WWII soldiers. Rich seems as interested in exploring different forms of miscommunication as in developing character and plot, and the two central mysteries, both centering on books and story-telling, have a distinctly Borgesian flavor to them. Rich is an impressive stylist, but this debut's whole ends up less than the sum of its disparate parts, which a surprise ending fails to unify.