cover image What Could Be Saved

What Could Be Saved

Liese O’Halloran Schwarz. Atria, $27 (448p) ISBN 978-1-9821-5061-7

In Schwarz’s superb sophomore novel (after The Possible World), an American family’s young boy goes missing in Thailand and resurfaces decades later. During the Vietnam War, Robert Preston works as a spy for the U.S. government and moves his family to Bangkok in 1972 under the pretense that he’s designing a dam. His resentful wife, Genevieve, begins an affair, and after their youngest child, Philip, disappears, the Prestons return to America with their other two daughters. All except Genevieve assume he’s dead, and Genevieve repeatedly returns to search for him. Forty-seven years later, Bea is aghast when her younger sister, Laura, travels to Bangkok in hopes of retrieving Philip, having received an email from a man who claims to have found him. The question of whether the man Laura returns with is their brother remains open for much of the book. The sisters are reluctant to press Philip for details about his disappearance and wonder how to break the news to Genevieve, who now has dementia. Schwarz is a remarkable storyteller, juggling many characters, and the seamless alternating chapters narrated by Laura and a servant from the Preston’s house in Bangkok gradually deepen the reader’s understanding of the past and present. Schwarz’s stellar work is riveting from its start all the way to the final horrifying twist. (Jan.)