From Publishers Weekly
Like her acclaimed 1998 debut, The Undiscovered Country, Gillison's second novel is set in New Guinea (where she lived in the early 1970s) and revolves around an introspective only child of bitterly estranged parents. Stephen Hesse-loosely modeled on Michael Rockefeller, who disappeared 40 years ago in then Dutch New Guinea while collecting primitive art for his father's collectionâ"is an excruciatingly lonely, earnest kid struggling to develop an identity under the crushing weight of his father's millions. Gillison skips nimbly through time and space to create a moving portrait of an intellectual, enthusiastic young man who's finding that all his glittering Hesse gold (there's so much of it that even the author sometimes seems to be in its thrall) is as much a curse as a blessing. Aspiring anthropologist Stephen eventually finagles his way onto a Harvard research team bound for New Guinea, and both he and the novel spring fully to life with the advent of dense, teeming coastlines and vertiginous mountain interiors. When compared to the richness of New Guinea's unbridled nature and awesome tribal art, Stephen's previous life feels flat and lifeless. His boredom as a young man in the U.S. occasionally infects the writing itself, but Gillison redeems herself in the jungle: in her loving hands, the lush landscapes throb with color and intensity. By the time Stephen finally disappears, as the reader knows he will, on an ill-advised art-buying mission among head-hunting tribes, one can't help mourning the loss of whatever this awakening might have spurred him to become.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In 1961, Stephen Hesse, the son of an American oil titan, finds himself adrift off the coast of Irian Jaya, in the path of a monsoon. Inspired by the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in Dutch New Guinea, Gillison's novel excavates the interior life of a lonely, willful "prince of America" whose every relationship and attempt at achievement is tainted by his father's wealth and power. The mystery here is not Stephen's ultimate fate (Rockefeller's body was never found) but what draws him from his sheltered world to an untouched Stone Age land where women suckle piglets and men wear necklaces of human vertebrae. As Stephen ranges through the jungle, his fixation on collecting tribal carvings becomes a doomed hunt for himself and "a pure expression of what it was to be a man: sexual, angry, full of remorse, sorry to be a creature that will die."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker