Title: A Geography of Secrets
Author: Frederick Reuss
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “Two men: One discovers the cost of keeping secrets, of building a career within a government agency where secrets are the operational basis. Noel Leonard works for the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center, mapping coordinates for military actions halfway around the world. One morning he learns that an error in his office is responsible for the bombing of a school in Afghanistan. And he knows suddenly that he is as alone as he is wrong.
Another man learns that family secrets have kept him from who he is and from the ineluctable ways he is attached to a world he has always disdained. This unnamed narrator, a cartographer, is the son of a career diplomat whose activities in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and then in Europe during the Cold War may not have been what they were said to be. He, too, travels to Switzerland, but his quest is not to release himself from secrecy – it is to learn how deep the secrets in his own life go.”
Thoughts: Life is all about secrets, the ones we keep from others and the ones we keep from ourselves. Written as separate but parallel stories, A Geography of Secrets explores these secrets and the damage they can do to an individual and to others. Both Noel and the unnamed narrator have family secrets that tear apart their serenity, forcing them to reevaluate everything they ever thought about their lives.
The novel’s beauty lies in the synchronicity of the two stories. Both men spend their lives analyzing topography, which makes them uniquely observant to various aspects of life. Yet, each is left questioning his place in his own family after certain secrets make themselves known. However, the secrets themselves are not important, as the reactions to these secrets truly drive the novel.
Make no mistake, this is a story that is just as mental as it is physical, mirroring the external and internal aspects of secrets. The language is simple and evocative. Mr. Reuss doesn’t hide behind the words but lets the psychology of the story unfold effortlessly. Through it all, the reader is drawn into each man’s plight, drawing parallels between the two, and superimposing any conclusions drawn onto his or her own life.
Not for everyone, A Geography of Secrets is a simple but dramatic story. There are no chase scenes or suspenseful moments. Rather, the drama occurs quietly, as each man searches for answers and makes decisions that have momentous implications for others. For the right reader, Mr. Reuss’ exploration of the power of secrets is one that will definitely leave its mark.
Thank you to NetGalley for my review copy!