Autumn in Carthage
by Christopher Zenos
Nathan Price is a college professor with crippling impairments, seeking escape from his prison of necessity. One day, in a package of seventeenth-century documents from Salem Village, he stumbles across a letter by his best friend, Jamie, who had disappeared six months before. The document is dated 1692 -- the height of the Witch Trials. The only potential lead: a single mention of Carthage, a tiny town in the Wisconsin northern highland.
The mystery catapults Nathan from Chicago to the Wisconsin wilderness. There, he meets Alanna, heir to an astonishing Mittel-European legacy of power and sacrifice. In her, and in the gentle townsfolk of Carthage, Nathan finds the refuge for which he has long yearned. But Simon, the town elder, is driven by demons of his own, and may well be entangled in Jamie's disappearance and that of several Carthaginians, As darkness stretches toward Alanna, Nathan may have no choice but to risk it all. . .
Moving from the grimness of Chicago's South Side to the Wisconsin hinterlands to seventeenth-century Salem, this is a story of love, of sacrifice, of terrible passions -- and of two wounded souls quietly reaching for the deep peace of sanctuary.
My Thoughts: I find that the more I enjoy the book, the harder it is to write the review - and this book falls into that category. I really liked Nathan. He was an accomplished professor, seemed to be well-liked by his peers and his students, but was still flawed with some unnamed mental disorder. Rather than diminishing his capabilities though, I thought this gave him a greater understanding as to the differences in people and while it may not have made him more accepting, it gave him a different viewpoint. I loved this passage in one of the earlier chapters, upon overhearing a group of young men discussing a date who had claimed she was bipolar - and laughing about the world being full of crazies.
We are not less than you, you cowardly little snot. We are more than you. We live every day in a world made by and for you, with burdens that would bring you to your knees -- and still manage to outperform you. (p18)
So anyway, Nathan travels to Carthage, Wisconsin in search of his friend Jamie. He is not sure what he is looking for and comes upon a town while friendly enough, seems to be harboring secrets and mysteries at every turn. In Alanna he finds a kindred spirit, and is almost afraid to hope that they might have a future together. She slowly lets him in on the town's big secret, which is that they are time travelers.
The author has written this book in such a way, as time travel does not seem farfetched at all, but just an alternate life style. It was not "science fictiony" at all and fit well with the demeanor of the community and the location. While Carthage seemed like any number of other small communities you might find in the midwest, there were subtle differences that made you realize it was special, wealthy. The author was so descriptive in telling about Carthage and the surrounding countryside, that I had to look online to see if a Carthage, Wisconsin really existed. (It does not.)
You meet a lot of characters early on in the book, and if you don't pay attention to the chapter subtitles, you might become confused as to who is narrating. The narrators all bring their own flavor to the story, as they should with their different viewpoints.
I liked the tie-in of Salem and the witch trials. If Carthaginians and their abilities were discovered, people might very well treat them as they did the so-called witches in Salem. Salem was a very misunderstood community, but there were a few who took in the misplaced Carthaginians, with their funny dress and accent, and helped them remain as inconspicuous as possible.
The novel wrapped things up in the end, very satisfactorily for me, and I am very glad that I read this book. I wonder if there are any other books in the works regarding escapades of other time travelers in this community.
~I received a complimentary copy of Autumn in Carthage from Rebecca at The Cadence Group in exchange for my unbiased review.~