In 1929 New Orleans, a young Dominican woman named Adana Moreau writes Lost City, a universe-bending work of science fiction. She writes a sequel, A Model Earth, but just before the new book is ready to be published, Adana falls ill. Knowing she is about to die and will never see the publication of her newest work, she burns the manuscript. In 2004 Chicago, a man discovers a manuscript in his recently deceased grandfather’s apartment. The ensuing journey to deliver the manuscript to the author’s son is enriched by generations of remarkable characters and the complex network of their memories.
A quick summary does The Lost Book of Adana Moreau no justice. As intriguing as the plot may sound upfront, it can’t speak to the otherworldly beauty of Michael Zapata’s writing. Don’t even bother trying to mark all the gorgeous passages that give you goosebumps, because there wouldn’t be much left unmarked. Zapata’s lyrical style has firm roots in Gabriel García Márquez’s work, with a boldness of delivery to the tune of Jorge Luis Borges. Much of this book is a story-within-a-story, a mise en abyme; it is a labyrinthine ode to storytellers. The theme of storytelling works as a suture, weaving through generations and throughout multiple, infinite and parallel universes.
Something to note is the novel’s treatment of women. While most of the protagonists are male, Zapata crafts female characters who are authors, physicists and master storytellers, who are loved for their intellect and contributions to the universe rather than for their beauty or contributions to the lives of men. Zapata pulls this off in a natural way that doesn’t feel showy or even particularly outright, which is all the more admirable.
As if his captivating writing style weren’t enough, Zapata has treated us to a thrillingly mysterious storyline with a beautiful payoff. The Lost Book of Adana Moreau is his debut novel, and we can only hope it is the first of many.