Gwendolen Gross, Author FIELD GUIDEGwendolen Gross

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The certitudes of scientific research yield to the unsolvable mysteries of emotional connection in this accomplished debut. Annabel Mendelssohn, 28, opts to do her graduate work on spectacled fruit bats far from home, at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. True, she is impassioned by her studies, but she also needs to process the death of her marine biologist brother, Robert, who was killed in a diving accident two years before. Robert suffered from clinical depression; his death looked suspiciously like suicide. Annabel relies on her married sister, Alice, who works in grant administration in Connecticut and has her own secrets, to be her link to home and family while she adjusts to her new surroundings, e-mailing disavowals of her growing attraction to her charming, absentminded professor, John Goode, who is undergoing a divorce. When Professor Goode disappears abruptly, his intimates wait a while before they become concerned, since he's known for "forgetting everything important for long enough to lose it." But eventually his 28-year-old son, Leon, comes home to Australia from Boston, where he works at a museum, to help look for the wayward professor. When his search through the jungle intersects with Annabel's derailed bat research, they join forces, and Annabel's longing for her brother is displaced somewhat by her anxiety about Leon's father: their bond, she thinks, is enhanced by her "expertise in being left." Gross's deceptively spare style glistens with pungent language and precise aperçus. Annabel's keenly observed evocation of the fecund rain forest is counterpointed by her wry insights about herself and her family. Though the book settles to a comfortable, obvious close, Annabel's double quest to discover the meaning of absence, set against the mysterious tropical world teeming with life, has a satisfying symmetry. (Apr. 4)

Reviewed on: 02/19/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-4299-6304-6
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-15-600766-5
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