Elm Howells led a charmed life. As a member of the Tinsley family, she found use for her art history degree through employment at the family’s prestigious New York City auction house. She also found joy outside of work: Elm and her husband, Colin, were the parents of son Ronan and daughter Moira. But her life was forever changed during a 2004 vacation to Thailand, when Ronan was swept away by a tsunami. In the years since, his death has colored everything in Elm’s life, including the decisions she makes at work.

Meanwhile, Spanish-born painter Gabriel Connois is trying to make a name for himself in Paris’ art scene. His adopted last name is already a success, thanks to his distant ancestor Marcel Connois. Gabriel has taken steps to prove his talent as well: He financed his Parisian art education by forging a Connois painting that belonged to his mother so he could replace it, and then sell the original. When an art dealer approaches Gabriel to paint a number of works “in the style of” famed artists, the money and the opportunity are too good to pass up.

Elm is desperate to reduce the pain caused by her son’s death. Gabriel is determined to get his shot at artistic success, no matter the cost. In Allison Amend’s A Nearly Perfect Copy, the lives of these art connoisseurs run along parallel, and sometimes intersecting, paths as Elm and Gabriel go to extremes in their work and personal lives.

Amend’s talent is on full display as these smart, complex narratives dance around each other, each capturing the reader’s imagination without ever detracting from the other story. Although she’s received critical acclaim for her work in a number of literary publications and for her historical novel, Stations West, this finely rendered portrait of two lives should introduce Amend to a wider audience.

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