Factor's engrossing debut novel is set at the turn of the 20th century in the Chihuahuan desert town of Pristina, an ostensible utopia formed by the charismatic, Massachusetts-born Owen Scraperton in an effort to reunite Man and Nature through labor. The settlement subsists on money brought in from mining mercury, a deceptive element that proves to be a stirring symbol of mankind's tempestuous relationships with each other, society, and the land. While Owen grooms his daughter, Victoria, to lead the community into the future, his wife, Dolores—the daughter of an aristocratic Mexican family fallen on hard times—bemoans the life to which she has consigned herself. In addition, town doctor Badinoe—with whom Dolores has struck up a friendship—is compiling research for a book on the hazardous effects of mercury, which Owen systematically rejects. As the element's fickle nature comes to light, the stability of the town is threatened. There is an eerie sense in this waterless oasis that a dedication to purity breeds sickness, and Factor's fierce and humbling prose expertly enunciates the sadness of an ideal's confrontation with reality. (Mar. 1)
Reviewed on: 04/16/2012 Release date: 02/01/2012 Genre: Fiction
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