This is a lovely little book. Since it begins with a girl finding the body of a boy washed up on the tiny island she inhabits (along with her father, a priest, a magician named Boxman, an a dog named No-Name), I at first thought it was a mystery. It is a mystery, but on a grander scope than a murder mystery/whodunit. With this strange group of island inhabitants, it is somehow not shocking that the dead boy is brought into Minou’s house and kept in a room with the window open to keep him cold until the boat can come to take him away. Both Minou and her father speak to the boy, searching for their respective answers. Minou’s father, a philosopher, convinced he’s a descendent of Descartes, is looking for nothing less than The Truth. Minou is looking for her mother, who put on her best shoes and disappeared without a trace. When one shoe was found, they buried it and held a shoe funeral. Everyone but Minou, sure her mother is alive, attended. Did she, as the adults assumed, walk into the ocean? Or is she somewhere out there? If she is alive, why hasn’t she returned?
‘I am close to finding the beginning, Minou. The first truth.’ Papa poured me a coffee and began to slice the bread vigorously. ‘Ah, if only your mama were here. There are so many things I would like to tell her, Minou.’
‘What would you say to her, Papa,’ I asked eagerly.
‘Oh, it’s very exciting.’ Papa pushed the bread and jam closer to me. ‘First, of course, I would tell her that with a constant temperature of six degrees below zero the dead boy is keeping remarkably fresh.’ Papa fumbled in his pocket and withdrew a crumpled note. I measured the temperature at precise intervals last night, Minou.’ He waved the note in front of me. ‘But there is something else. In the middle of the night, as I was speaking to the dead boy, I saw his face in the shadows. His jaw, his hair, and I realized–‘ Papa paused for effect ‘–that he looks like a young Descartes.’
As Minou and her father both speak to the dead boy, seeking the truth, the tangle of Minou’s memories of her mother is slowly loosened, revealing more than either of them expected.
Source disclosure: I purchased this title.