cover image The Man Who Walked Away

The Man Who Walked Away

Maud Casey. Bloomsbury, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-1-62040-311-2

Casey’s haunting third novel (after Genealogy) is both unconventional and engaging. In a former pilgrimage church in late-19th-century Bordeaux, a nameless director and doctor manage a small mental asylum along unusually humane lines. One day, a man named Albert arrives at its gates. Unable to keep himself from setting out on fresh journeys, or to remember how he got to each new place, Albert has walked through Europe and beyond, unmoored to home, love, and time. As he bonds with the asylum’s patients and offers what he knows of his past to the doctor, who tries to “listen past the words,” Albert tentatively regains his footing in the everyday world. But his work with the doctor transforms both of them in ways that neither expects. Though her plot is solidly rooted in the history of medicine (a character based on famed French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot makes a memorable appearance), Casey’s true focus is human rather than clinical. Our need for stories, our relationship with time, the inevitability of loss, and our startling endurance all resonate through her beautifully crafted interweaving of image and observation, fairy tale and fact. (Mar.)