Summary and book reviews of The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata

The Lost Book of Adana Moreau

by Michael Zapata

The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata X
The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata
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  • Published:
    Feb 2020, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Dean Muscat
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About this Book

Book Summary

The mesmerizing story of a Latin American science fiction writer and the lives her lost manuscript unites decades later in post-Katrina New Orleans.

In 1929 in New Orleans, a Dominican immigrant named Adana Moreau writes a science fiction novel titled Lost City. It is a strange and beautiful novel, set in a near future where a sixteen-year-old Dominican girl, not all that unlike Adana herself, searches for a golden eternal city believed to exist somewhere on a parallel Earth. Lost City earns a modest but enthusiastic readership, and Adana begins a sequel. Then she falls gravely ill. Just before she dies, she and her son, Maxwell, destroy the only copy of the manuscript.

Decades later in Chicago, Saul Drower is cleaning out his dead grandfather's home when he discovers a mysterious package containing a manuscript titled A Model Earth, written by none other than Adana Moreau.

Who was Adana Moreau? How did Saul's grandfather, a Jewish immigrant born on a steamship to parents fleeing the aftershocks of the Russian Revolution, come across this unpublished, lost manuscript? Where is Adana Moreau's mysterious son, Maxwell, a theoretical physicist, and why did Saul's grandfather send him the manuscript as his final act in life? With the help of his friend Javier, Saul tracks down an address for Maxwell in New Orleans, which is caught at that moment in the grip of Hurricane Katrina. Unable to reach Maxwell, Saul and Javier head south through the heartland of America toward that storm-ravaged city in search of answers.

Blending the high-stakes mystery of The Shadow of the Wind, the science fiction echoes of Exit West, and the lyrical signatures of Bolaño and Márquez, Michael Zapata's debut shines a breathtaking new light on the experiences of displacement and exile that define our nation. The Lost Book of Adana Moreau is a brilliantly layered masterpiece that announces the arrival of a bold new literary talent.

The Lost Book of Adana Moreau

His father was a pirate. He had black skin and was a pirate. Regardless of his occupation, or maybe because of it, he was charming and warmhearted and loved listening to most any-body who had a story to tell. His mother was a servant to an old Spanish sugar plantation family just outside of San Pedro de Macorís. It was said she had Taíno blood in her veins and never lied. She had long, coffee-colored hair and all she had known her entire life was the plantation house where she worked with her mother, the seas of the Antilles, and her parents.

On May 16th, 1916, the American Marines landed on the island and her mother and father were killed in the ensuing guerrilla war waged by the peasant gavilleros against the Marines, who, according to her father, were nothing more than tígueritos hired by greedy American businessmen who wanted to force them off their land to expand the sugar plantations. The night before her parents' deaths, she ...

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The Lost Book of Adana Moreau is a novel that's positively crammed with stories; there are enough here to fill several books and then some. Much like Maxwell's childhood favorite The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Michael Zapata's luminous novel is set up in a stories-within-a-story framework. As Zapata shows again and again, stories offer insight into people's lives; give a voice to history's forgotten; and above all, have the unique ability to connect people from disparate backgrounds, even across generations...continued

Full Review Members Only (769 words).

(Reviewed by Dean Muscat).

Media Reviews

Boston Globe
A mix of realist and speculative styles, this ambitious literary debut has earned Zapata comparisons to Jesmyn Ward.

Washington Post
What could be more tantalizing for bibliophiles than the mystery of a lost manuscript? ...Zapata’s carefully crafted prose oscillates between matter-of-fact and lyrically poetic, a tonal range that provides a very pleasant reading experience. Also stuffed not inelegantly between the microcosmic doings are several larger incidents that limn the bloody and brutal history of the two centuries, including South American totalitarianism, European pogroms and the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.

New York Times
When Zapata...favors people over events, their stories come alive. We feel soot on our faces when a Welsh doctor recounts leading a pony from a coal mine; we hear the clanging pots of rioters in Javier’s description of Buenos Aires. In the book’s most hypnotizing passage, we are breathless and stung by the anti-Semitic horror Saul’s great-grandfather experienced aboard a ship carrying him from Europe to the New World...Through the allegory of the multiverse, Zapata reinterprets the extent and toll of exile on Earth, the gulf between universes of human experience.

Zapata tackles huge feelings and ideas in Lost Book, but he makes it look effortless...Where does one nation end and another begin? Where does one generation end and another begin? Where does one story end and another begin? Lost Book poses these heady questions, and in unpacking his answers, Zapata illuminates the reality-inventing power of storytelling itself.

Kirkus Reviews
Zapata's debut novel is a wonderful merging of adventure with thoughtful but urgent meditations on time, history, and surviving tragedy. The characters are richly drawn, and the prose is striking...A luminous novel about the deep value of telling stories.

Publishers Weekly
[S]tirring...Digging into themes of regeneration and rejuvenation, Zapata's marriage of speculative and realist styles makes for a harrowing, immersive tale that will appeal to fans of Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones.

BookPage (starred review)
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...Zapata has treated us to a thrillingly mysterious storyline with a beautiful payoff.

Author Blurb Ingrid Rojas Contreras, author of Fruit of the Drunken Tree
Zapata is a thrilling new talent. Alternating between the quest for a man in post-Katrina New Orleans for whom a mystery manuscript was left to be posthumously delivered, and the tale the manuscript itself tells, The Lost Book of Adana Moreau is an ambitious novel that probes for friendship, the possibility of parallel worlds, and the way the real and the unreal meet at every moment.

Author Blurb Idra Novey, author of Ways to Disappear and Those Who Knew
This bold, inventive debut moves through the twentieth century like a cyclone. The Lost Book of Adana Moreau opens with American Marines in Santo Domingo, tears on through New Orleans and reaches a roaring end in the Atacama Desert of Chile. Michael Zapata writes as skillfully of rebellion as he does of joy and every page of The Lost Book of Adana Moreau comes alive.

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Beyond the Book

The Weird and Wonderful History of Weird Tales Magazine

Weird Tales, Issue no. 1 In Michael Zapata's The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, Adana Moreau's sci-fi novel Lost City is serialized in Weird Tales. This fantasy, horror and science fiction pulp magazine was a real-life publication that was founded in 1923 by J.C. Henneberger and J.M. Lansinger and that remained in print until 1954.

Over its lifetime, Weird Tales played an important role in helping launch and foster the careers of many seminal American sci-fi and horror writers, including H. P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Robert Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, C. L. Moore, Edmond Hamilton, Robert Bloch and countless others.

It was Henneberger who identified a gap in the American short story market. Plenty of quality writers, he realized, were not being published by...

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