It’s Christmas 1932 and Andrew Bankson, half-crazed with loneliness after years studying a tribe on a river in New Guinea, meets two fellow anthropologists who have been avoiding him. Nell Stone (based on real anthropologist Margaret Mead) and her volatile husband Fen were wary of trespassing on Bankson’s territory, but he willingly finds them a new tribe on the same river, eager for the company of his peers.
Stone’s recent book has brought her notoriety at home, and when Bankson meets her she is physically and emotionally damaged by her recent tribal experience. Fen, by contrast, is bullish and competitive. As the mysteries of their past are revealed, Bankson’s connection with Stone deepens and Fen’s secret threatens to endanger them all. This is a glorious book, capturing the elation of intellectual discovery, the frailty of social structures and the sensuality of human connection.