I’m joining the First Line Friday link-up again, hosted by Carrie at Reading is My Superpower. And I cannot say enough good things about this week’s book: All the Lost Places, by Amanda Dykes.
And because some people disrespect prologues, here’s the first line of chapter 1 as well:
All the Lost Places, by Amanda Dykes (Bethany House, 2022)
Lyrical, beautifully crafted, and luminous with hope, All the Lost Places is a dual-timeline historical novel. Rather than my stiff summary, here’s the official back cover copy:
When all of Venice is unmasked, one man’s identity remains a mystery . . .
When a baby is discovered floating in a basket along the quiet canals of Venice, a guild of artisans takes him in and raises him as a son, skilled in each of their trades. Although the boy, Sebastien Trovato, has wrestled with questions of his origins, it isn’t until a woman washes ashore on his lagoon island that answers begin to emerge. In hunting down his story, Sebastien must make a choice that could alter not just his own future, but also that of the beloved floating city.
Daniel Goodman is given a fresh start in life as the century turns. Hoping to redeem a past laden with regrets, he is sent on an assignment from California to Venice to procure and translate a rare book. There, he discovers a city of colliding hope and decay, much like his own life, and a mystery wrapped in the pages of that filigree-covered volume. With the help of Vittoria, a bookshop keeper, Daniel finds himself in a web of shadows, secrets, and discoveries carefully kept within the stones and canals of the ancient city . . . and in the mystery of the man whose story the book does not finish: Sebastien Trovato.
This is a gentle, luxurious read best enjoyed slowly like a fine dessert. Having said that, I admit to reading parts too fast because I had to know what happened next. Daniel and Vittoria, Sebastien and Mariana and their friends… these characters mattered to me. And I knew I could trust author Amanda Dykes to treat their story carefully even when they couldn’t see the way forward.
All the Lost Places reads in part like a fairy tale, understandable perhaps since Sebastien’s story is birthed in the pages of the book Daniel is assigned to translate. Daniel and Sebastien are both men haunted by the broken places in their lives. As they grapple with this, they discover that perhaps a lost or broken place is an opportunity to be filled with light.
Daniel is an artist, living now with an injury that prevents him from picturing in his mind what he wants to draw. As he tries to discover how to move from who he was and how he worked to who he is—and can he work this way?—he must also learn how to find redemption when restitution is not enough.
Such serious themes don’t weigh the story down. Readers will enjoy a detailed vicarious tour of Venice as the men in both times engage with a variety of engaging characters. Sebastien’s multiple adoptive guardians, Daniel’s bookseller and gondolier, these and more are delights. And oh, the settings!
This is a novel with far too many favourite lines for me to quote. I encourage you to read it for yourself and discover your own.
Amanda Dykes is the author of the 2020 Christy Award Book of the Year for her debut novel, Whose Waves These Are. Her more recent books are Set the Stars Alight and Yours is the Night. For more about the author and her work, visit amandadykes.com.
[Review copy from the public library.]
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