cover image No Two Persons

No Two Persons

Erica Bauermeister. St. Martin’s, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-28437-2

Bauermeister’s moving linked collection (after The Scent Keeper) revolves around a novel by a reclusive author. After Alice Wein’s older brother, Peter, a once-promising swimmer, dies from an overdose, she writes a novel titled Theo with an eponymous main character inspired by her brother. Over the next 10 years, Theo is plucked from an agent’s slush pile by a new mother and is later recorded as an audiobook by an actor whose career was hindered by a disease that causes skin discoloration. The stories, all of which feature a life derailed by circumstance, become more engaging as they focus on Theo’s readers. The overarching narrative takes a while to get going—early stories such as “The Writer” are vague—but the author hits her stride with “The Teenager,” in which a secretly homeless scholarship kid finds a lifeline through sympathetic adults. Another standout is “The Caretaker,” in which a widower gets to experience his beloved wife’s presence one more time through her marginalia. “The Agent,” a satisfying closer, checks in on Alice’s agent at the end of her own long career. There’s plenty of charm to this thoughtful take on a book’s impact on its readers. (May)