The century is Henry’s. Such great expectations can’t work out as everyone hopes, of course. These mentors—including Mrs. Pinckney, the pillbox-hatted proprietor of the titular museum—see in him the chance to improve the world. But Henry must grow up and prove himself: first that he’s not the murderer he’s accused of being when, at age seven, his friend goes missing, and then later, when greatness is expected of him as a healer, that he’s not a fake. Averett conjures surprising trials and choices for his hero, plus some unexpected intimate relations. Often the story considers what it means or costs to heal—including the wrenching question of what responsibility Henry has to one friend who didn’t want his intervention.
This is a heady, at times provocative novel that never settles into predictability or easy answers. The nature of Henry’s healing is resonant: he must read to a patient, connecting with them, a tribute to the power of the written word, which the mass-media explosion of Henry’s would diminish. That’s one of many fascinating threads here, like that museum enshrining the boundless promise of an age long past.
Takeaway: A fascinating novel of healing and mid-century generational promise.
Comparable Titles: Thomas Berger, Donald Barthelme.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A