cover image A Chance to See Egypt

A Chance to See Egypt

Sandra Jean Scofield. HarperCollins Publishers, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017343-2

Returning to the setting that served her so well in Gringa (1989), Scofield augments her literary reputation with a heartfelt, elegiac story about a newly widowed man who journeys to Mexico to assuage his grief and emerges with a surprising new love. Tom Riley is a middle-aged pet-store owner from Chicago who finds himself ""out of place, between the two humps of the camel"" after his wife's death. During an extended holiday in the tourist town of Lago de Luz, Tom, frustrated with the local American expatriates, finds himself longing to connect with the Mexican peasants. He is drawn to Consolata Arispe, a mystically minded widow who runs a small cafe and whose lovely 19-year-old daughter, Divina, works as a domestic in the local tourist hotel. Riley's romance is facilitated by the novel's narrator, Charlotte Amory, an expat novelist who meets the widower in one of her writing classes and who employs Divina as a model for her paintings. Scofield draws her romantic principals together with a graceful, wry sense of humor, converting Riley's indecision into a warm, wise exploration of the mysteries of love, and she turns an ending that could have been cliched into a genuinely profound revelation. This is top-shelf Scofield, a novel that recalls the compassionate, emotionally incisive storytelling of her early works while adding new layers of depth and maturity. First serial and dramatic rights: Emma Sweeney. (Apr.)