Read in August 2009
Recommended to me by Janny Wurts
Martha Macnamara knows that her daughter Elizabeth is in trouble, she just doesn’t know what kind. Mysterious phone calls from San Francisco at odd hours of the night are the only contact she has had with Elizabeth for years. Now, Elizabeth has sent her a plane ticket and reserved a room for her at San Francisco’s most luxurious hotel. Yet she has not tried to contact Martha since she arrived, leaving her lonely, confused and a little bit worried. Into the story steps Mayland Long, a distinguished-looking and wealthy Chinese man who lives at the hotel and is drawn to Martha’s good nature and ability to pinpoint the truth of a matter. Mayland and Martha become close in a short period of time and he promises to help her find Elizabeth, making small inroads in the mystery before Martha herself disappears. Now Mayland is struck by the realization, too late, that he is in love with Martha, and now he fears for her life. Determined to find her, he sets his prodigious philosopher’s mind to work on the problem, embarking on a potentially dangerous adventure.
I curled up with this book during the weirdest weather weekend I’ve witnessed for August as a native Kansan. A north wind for three days (starting on Friday), highs in the low 70s and partly to mostly cloudy. It felt and smelled like October! And this book was perfect for that setting. An incognito dragon seeking the meaning of life or ultimate truth finding it and love in a small childlike bewildering woman with crystal blue eyes.
I got a kick out of the early 80s retro computer terminology, especially the references to CP/M and 8080 processors. I cut my teeth on that technology while in high school and it holds a fond place in my geeky heart.
The mystery and kidnapping were fun, but just a distraction to the main theme I mentioned above. A short novel treasure to cherish once and perennially.
The central questions of the book are “what does it mean to be human” and “what is truth”—not small thing to tackle in a first novel, and MacAvoy deals with them well, and in a manner that suits the central Zen theme. What it means to a dragon to be human is a question people don’t ask often enough.