The Trace, New Directions

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Frances Mayes (author of Under the Tuscan Sun & Under Magnolia) at

Forrest Gander has written a seamless novel that's hard to put down. The writing is compelling on every page, so compelling that you know you're in the hands of a superb prose stylist. I especially enjoyed the spare descriptions of the desert landscape, creatures, geology, and atmosphere. Gander's joy in the choice of words celebrates the language on every page. The story is harrowing, emotional, and brutal, and at the same time the characters are nuanced and subtle. This strange variation on the classic American theme of the innocent abroad reminds me of all we don't know or recognize when we travel, and how our assumptions of ourselves as we sally forth with our personal agendas can be so dangerous. The couple has no expectation as they begin a literary quest (and the quest to find each other again) that they will encounter pure and random evil. This book is both a page turner and a literary triumph.