cover image Perdita


Hilary Scharper. Sourcebooks Landmark, $16.99 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-1-4926-0244-6

Canadian author Scharper (Dream Dresses) shines in this surprising and engaging gothic novel. Widower and historian Garth Hellyer is documenting the lives of residents at a retirement home when he encounters Marged Brice, a woman dumped in the facility by the last of her family. Marged purports to be 134 years old and ready for death, but can't leave because of a mysterious person named Perdita. A skeptical Garth disagrees about her age, saying it's impossible for anyone to live to be 134, before Marged gives him her diaries of growing up in Cape Prius, Canada, the daughter of a lighthouse keeper. From there, the tale is told in alternating first-person points of view: entries from Marged's journals from the turn of the 20th century and Garth's present-day narrative, as he seeks to learn who the mysterious Perdita might be. The author skillfully portrays Garth's journey through Marged's tangled and engrossing story, as well as her strength of character%E2%80%94particularly in her complicated love life. When it's time for Garth to make a decision about his own love life, it is Marged's example that guides him. Scharper wraps up with a series of quirky twists readers won't see coming. Impeecably researched%E2%80%94Scharper is an associate professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Toronto and spent a decade as a lighthouse keeper on the Bruce Peninsula of Canada%E2%80%94and beautifully told, this is a tale that will stay with readers long after the final page is turned. (Jan.)