By Nicholas Christopher
(The Dial Press, Hardcover, 9780385337366, 320pp.)
Publication Date: June 26, 2007
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From “a writer of remarkable gifts,” “Borges with emotional weight, comes a tale that is at once a fantastical historical mystery, a haunting love story, and a glimpse into the uncanny—the quest for a long-lost book detailing the animals left off Noah’s Ark.
Xeno Atlas grows up in the Bronx, his Sicilian grandmother’s strange stories of animal spirits his only escape from the legacy of his mother’s early death and his stern father’s long absences as a common seaman. Shunted off to an isolated boarding school, with his father’s activities abroad and the source of his newfound wealth grown increasingly mysterious, Xeno turns his early fascination with animals into a personal obsession: his search for the Caravan Bestiary. This medieval text, lost for eight hundred years, supposedly details the animals not granted passage on the Ark—griffins, hippogriffs, manticores, and basilisks—the vanished remnants of a lost world sometimes glimpsed in the shadowy recesses of our own.
Xeno’s quest takes him from the tenements of New York to the jungles of Vietnam to the ancient libraries of Europe—but it is only by riddling out his own family secrets that he can hope to find what he is looking for. A story of panoramic scope and intellectual suspense, The Bestiary is ultimately a tale of heartbreak and redemption.
Nicholas Christopher is the author of four previous novels, The Soloist, Veronica, A Trip to the Stars, and Franklin Flyer, eight books of poetry, and a book about film noir, Somewhere in the Night. He lives in New York City.
“Smart, entertaining ... a marvelous hybrid of intellectual quest and well-plotted adventure.... A literary thriller in which—unusually—neither “literary” nor “thriller” seems an afterthought.”—Kirkus Reviews
“The novel's greatest pleasures might lie in its esoterica, its fascinating trips down side paths of the fantastic.” —Columbus Dispatch
“A fascinating blend of the bibliophile quest novel merged with romance, intrigue and fantasy.”—Seattle Times
“Fascinating ... an old-fashioned quest.... Christopher is a compelling storyteller and writer.”—Boston Globe
“Magical and melancholy ... richly drawn .”—Washington Post Book World