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“One hot summer day, Michael Salter, nineteen-year-old scion of a posh Highland family, disappears. When his childlike aunt claims she drowned him during a fight, the family close ranks. No police. No memorial service. No titbits for village gossips. A decade of deceit begins.” — Financial Times
The Salter family orbits around Peattie House, their crumbling Scottish highlands estate filled with threadbare furniture, patrician memories, and all their inevitable secrets. While gathered to celebrate grandmother's seventieth birthday, someone breaks the silence. The web begins to unravel. But what is the white lie? How many others are built upon it? How many lives have been shaped by its shadow? Only one person knows the whole truth. From beyond the grave, Michael loops back into the past until we see, beyond perception and memory, how deeply our decisions resound, and just what is the place—and price—of grandeur.read more
Memoirist Gillies's (Keeper) debut novel is an engaging saga about the Salter clan, loosely narrated by Michael from beyond the grave. He vanishes under mysterious circumstances as a young man at his family's ancestral compound in Scotland. Traveling back and forth in time, Michael unravels the family's tangled history, beginning with his idiosyncratic Aunt Ursula's shocking confession about what happened during an altercation between her and him. Michael foreshadows the sinister tale by musing, "It's reassuring when history doesn't present variations; it feels as if memory is confirming itself as the facts, achieving a kind of objectivity." Family members, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, weave their own versions of what transpired, each with shaded perceptions securely tucked away from the others. The passage of time only serves to embalm the enigma of his disappearance and underscores how much-or little-the family knows of one another. Years later, the group converges to celebrate a milestone birthday, and the reunion serves as a catalyst for dialogue about the family's murky past. Gillies's atmospheric prose perfectly complements this engrossing drama set against a creepy loch. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.