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November 18 , 2010

The Same River Twice


When Odile Mével, a French clothing designer, agrees to smuggle ceremonial May Day banners out of the former Soviet Union, she thinks she’s trading a few days’ inconvenience for a quick thirty thousand francs. Yet when she returns home to Paris to deliver the contraband to Turner, the American art expert behind this scheme, her fellow courier (previously a stranger) has disappeared, her apartment is ransacked for no discernible reason, and she has already set in motion a chain of events that will put those closest to her in jeopardy.
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Odile’s American husband, Max, has no inkling of her clandestine moonlighting. An independent filmmaker whose recent taste of commercial success has left him at a crossroads in his career, he by chance makes a surreal discovery: unauthorized copies of his first film, with a technically expert, and completely different, ending. Baffled as to who would have either the motive or the means to commit such intellectual piracy, he investigates this fraud and soon runs up against the Russian mafia and, possibly, a human-trafficking operation. At the same time, he is becoming ever more preoccupied by his next artistic project: filming the actual lives of people intimate to him and Odile, a Dutchman and his American girlfriend who are meticulously restoring their century-old houseboat on the Seine—an endeavor that has fervent meaning for both Max and his subjects. And as if this weren’t excitement enough, he begins to suspect that Odile is having an affair.

Marital deceptions deepen and multiply even as the details of Odile’s and Max’s escapades appear ever more connected. The couple must now confront exactly what they are willing to do for the sake of their marriage and, indeed, their lives. Meanwhile, Turner, too, has a great many irons in the fire, which suddenly threatens to burn out of control.

Hugely atmospheric, perceptively written, and grippingly suspenseful, The Same River Twice is a page-turner that also poses questions of existential importance. What is the nature of inevitability? What agency do we have over our destinies? And is a different ending ever possible?

From the Hardcover edition.
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