This is a very intricately woven book with essentially 2 story lines that ultimately converge. One is the story of Elsa, trapped by the circumstance of her father’s death in 1912 and her need to care for her developmentally odd sister and finding herself ultimately married to her father’s research disciple. Her new husband takes Elsa and her sister on a journey to Easter Island, a remote, tiny island east of the coast of Chile, to study the history and culture of the people there. The second story is the modern day tale of Greer, a botany researcher whose husband has recently died under unusual circumstances, who in search of a way to cope and to move on with her own life and her own project, comes also to Easter Island. As both women study the unusual island and its people, they both stumble upon similar findings, even as they both learn a lot about themselves.
Both stories are well-told and build in momentum as the stories unfold. The history that is knitted into the stories ultimately bind the two together, as does the science that is studied. There are a lot of scientific details that are described — perhaps even too much even for me — although it is an essential part of the plot. But I actually do like how the science is so closely tied to what is learned by both women and how science actually illuminates the history of the island. It brings the laboratory to the real world, so to speak.
This is a very different book, at least for me, and I enjoyed all that I learned from it.