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Tobias Maxwell
Rafael Jerome
A fluke meeting in Paris brings the past into focus for two very different strangers. Gary Silverman, whose encounter with Rafael Jerome in 1949 led to a lifelong sense of loss, and Jeremy Jerome, clueless about his father’s misadventure in flashy Hollywood, circa ’49, who must deal with the consequences once Gary discloses misalliances. Always the dutiful son, Jeremy is determined to unearth his father’s true legacy. He follows his intuition that takes him to Ottawa then Calgary to find decades-old answers to a family secret. Rafael Jerome plumbs the depths of unrequited love along with the deficits it so often reveals.
Maxwell’s newest book about love, loss, and reparation is an engaging, globe-spanning read that finds wounded hearts facing the past and seeking closure. A chance meeting while holidaying in Paris in the late 1990s leads Jeremy Jerome and Gary Silverman to discover that the latter had once known and harbored deep unrequited love for the former’s late father, Rafael. Rafael had been an enigma to his sons, and as Jeremy grapples with disturbing revelations made by Gary, he decides to share what he’s discovered with his siblings, Paulette and Matthew. Then, with the help of some surprising co-conspirators, Jeremy and Gary hatch an elaborate plan to get even with Calgary’s storied and powerful Burnshaw family for a shocking injustice done to Rafael. As happens in life, closure, when it comes, is of an entirely different nature than anyone might have expected.

In a crucial extended flashback to a vividly realized 1949 Hollywood, where Rafael has arrived after hitchhiking across the country, Maxwell deftly paints the strong love that Gary felt for Rafael in spite of knowing the futility of longing for a man who can’t love him back. These chapters, the novel’s vital emotional core, abound with strong characterization, rich historical detail, and convincingly lifelike incidents that will rouse in readers a desire to see justice and closure for Rafael, especially after Rafael suffers a horrifying assault.

The novel’s 1990s story, meanwhile, centers on a scheme for cross-generational justice, as Jeremy and Gary strive to achieve a reckoning for Burnshaw’s crime of a half century before. The plan is convoluted, straining against the dynamics of the fictional world Maxwell has created, and the introduction of thriller elements, including scenes of imprisonment, feels like a shift of genre. Still, the novel is poignant, especially in its portrait of love and healing across decades.

Takeaway: A touching novel of unrequited love, facing the past, and unexpected suspense.

Great for fans of:Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees, Andre Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A