Lucy Bengstrom had always dreamed of living in Seattle. From her remote childhood home, it seemed an Oz - a city of possibilities and fantastic, distant pleasures. But now, in 2005, living alone with her eleven year old daughter Alida, things seem less clear-cut. Post 9/11, the promise of homeland security and the implication of severe vulnerability are closely bound together. When Lucy is asked to write about August Vanagas, a reclusive international bestselling author, Lucy becomes intrigued by his story. His memoir of his childhood as an orphaned boy adrift in Europe during the Second World War seems to reveal the most painful of truths - but the more she learns, the more questions she has ...To Alida's generation - plugged into iPods, used to having their lives watched and documented - the virtual world is as important (if not more so) than the real one. She and her schoolfriends defer to The Geek, giving him muffins and doughnuts in exchange for his knowledge of writing computer codes that promise make their websites ever cooler.
Struggling to interpret her world, Alida gathers information about her family and friends in the hope she can develop a human algebra which will help make sense of the way people are. Tad lives in the same apartment block as Lucy and Alida. He's an out-of-work actor and an activist, driven to earn money by taking part in government sponsored mock terrorist attacks staged in the city. Disenchanted by the US administration and all it stands for, he spends sleepless nights surfing the internet, tracking news stories around the world, trying to pin down a nugget of truth in a vast sea of propaganda. Who can you trust when the lines between fact and fiction become so blurred?
Jonathan Raban is the author several award-wininning novels. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, Harpers, the Guardian and other publications. In 1990 Raban, a British citizen, moved from London to Seattle, where he now lives with his daughter.