After the loss of her only son, Sara Black finds herself spending more and more time at the Seattle hospital where she is a nurse, tending to "the tall man," the victim of a gunshot wound whose identity has remained a provocative riddle-until he starts talking. As the man she knows as Samuel draws Sara into a strange and chilling story about his past on an Alaskan island, she must face some truths of her own, as well as the realization that the patient to whom she's devoted herself may not be who he says he is.
A nurse finds solace in her work with a mysterious brain-injured patient in this poignant, brooding first novelby Coyle, a contributing editor at Outside magazine and the author of the nonfiction book Hardball: A Season in the Projects. In the suburban Seattle hospital where she works, Sara Black is assigned to care for an anonymous patient in his early 20s who was found on a nearby beach with a bullet in his head. She has some success with her patient, who is in "a state of suspended disrepair," but she is preoccupied with her own suffering: two years ago her four-year-old son was killed in a car accident; she was the driver. One day, her patient begins to speak. Giving his name as Samuel, he slowly provides a fragmented account of having been stranded on a remote Alaskan island. Despite the misgivings of her husband, Tom, Sara's involvement with Samuel deepens, until she begins reliving her accident by telling him stories about her son. The suspense heightens when Sara finally learns her patient's full name and contacts his family in Chicago, only to discover that the police have verified his death. But the island story line turns lurid and cartoonish as Coyle delves deeper into Samuel's involvement with a mysterious young man named Kjell, his sister and their diabolical marine biologist father, Dr. Spero. Despite this lapse in tone, Coyle tells Sara's story with graceful eloquence and authority, tracing the subtle trajectory of her return to a state of emotional equilibrium. Pacific Northwest author tour.