Karl Iagnemma was declared an innovative voice in American literature when his award-winning collection of short stories, On the Nature of Human Interaction, was published in 2004. His spellbinding first novel, The Expeditions, is certain to draw similar acclaim for the engineer-turned-author, who merges science and fiction in surprising ways.
Sixteen-year-old Elisha Stone loves nothing more than the secret beauty of nature, and in the summer of 1844 he is about to begin a transformational journey into the untamed wilderness of northern Michigan. Having run away from his home in Newell, Massachusetts, Elisha has worked his way across the country to Detroit. Now the sensitive and artistic young man has landed himself what he believes will be a dream job with an eclectic expeditionary team that will include Mr. Silas A. Brush, an entrepreneurial though duplicitous surveyor; professor George Tiffin, an agenda-driven and relentless anthropologist; and Susette Morel, a singularly beautiful but mysterious half-breed Chippewa guide. Before leaving on his demanding journey into unexplored Indian country, Elisha writes a poignant letter to his mother that will forever transform more than one life.
When Elisha's estranged father, the spiritually and emotionally conflicted Rev. William Edward Stone, receives the letter, he understands suddenly that he must leave Newell and go to his son, to tell the boy about his mother's death. After three years of knowing absolutely nothing about his son's whereabouts, the acutely ill Reverend finally has a clue as to where his son might be, and so hoping and praying for reconciliation and forgiveness he begins his own harrowing expedition westward to Michigan and northward into the primitive wilderness.
Iagnemma's debut novel is provocative, elegiac and highly recommended. The Expeditions is something of a Transcendentalist Bildungsroman: The characters must navigate through hazards and obstacles real and imagined in a quest for truth. At the end of their pilgrimage each person will discover that the natural world might be the one place other than deep within the self where a person can begin finding answers to life's most perplexing mysteries. Tim Davis writes from Alabama.