In order to investigate an anomaly in time, Gaspery, a detective for the Time Institute, travels back in time to meet three people who have experienced the anomaly. Edwin St. Andrew, the son of a wealthy British family who has banished him to Canada in 1912, experiences the anomaly while walking in the Canadian wilderness. Paul James Smith, a composer and artist, shares a video of the anomaly that his sister took in the Canadian wilderness in the 90s. And Olive Llewellyn is an author on a book tour in 2203 fielding questions about a scene she wrote in the book about the anomaly in the Oklahoma City airship. As their stories unfold, Gaspery gets involved in each of their lives, which may irrevocably alter the timeline for better or worse.
This is my first time reading Emily St. John Mandel and I am absolutely in love with her writing style. It focuses in on beautifully observed, human moments with a rich, atmospheric setting. I loved the way the story moved between perspectives and thought she did an excellent job conveying the setting both in the past and in the future.
The story is character-driven and each character is well-developed and compelling. I found myself most drawn to Olive’s story, especially as she experiences a devastating pandemic that disrupts the entire world. The comparisons between this pandemic and the beginning of Covid-19 were striking and the way she wrote the pandemic was eerily familiar. I also loved Gaspery’s perspective as he meets with each of the people throughout time and becomes connected to their stories. I loved the way his life progressed and thought he was a fascinating character.
The novel is leisurely paced, but I appreciated the slower pace as the story unfolded. I found the book exciting, lyrical, and richly detailed in the best way possible. I’ve been thinking about this one long after I finished reading!
CW: murder, gun violence, pandemic