A man wakes up in present-day Alaskan wilderness with no idea who he is, nothing on him save an empty journal with the date 1898 and a mirror. He sees another man hunting nearby, astounded that they look exactly alike except for his own beard. After following this other man home, he witnesses a wife and child that brings forth a rush of memories of his own wife and child, except he’s certain they do not exist in modern times—but from his life in the late 1800s.
After recalling his name is Wyatt, he worms his way into his doppelganger Travis Barlow’s life. Memories become unearthed the more time he spends, making him believe that he’d been frozen after coming to Alaska during the Gold Rush and that Travis is his great-great grandson. Wyatt is certain gold still exists in the area and finding it with Travis will ingratiate himself to the family, especially with Travis’s wife Callie, once Wyatt falls in love. This turns into a dangerous obsession affecting the Barlows and everyone in their small town, since Wyatt can’t be tamed until he also discovers the meaning of why he was able to be preserved on ice for over a century.
A meditation on love lost and unfulfilled dreams, The Ancestor is a thrilling page-turner in present day Alaska and a historical adventure about the perilous Gold Rush expeditions where prospectors left behind their lives for the promise of hope and a better future.
The question remains whether it was all worth the sacrifice…
A bit of a strange one from publisher All Due Respect and author Lee Matthew Goldberg, when compared to their previous publications, but one I really enjoyed. Part adventure novel, part present day crime fiction, with a splash of the impossible-unexplainable welded into the narrative. That said the way Goldberg dealt with this "event" had me convinced and I could easily buy into it. I think a failure to sell Wyatt's re-birth would have kind of rendered all that followed irrelevant.
1890s..... poverty, illness, despair, ergo Alaska, the gold rush, dreams of riches, a family left behind, a voyage, danger, hurdles, friends, foes, hardship, sacrifice, mis-trust, murder and oblivion.
Present day..... Alaska, an awakening, confusion, an honest to God double, memory gaps, a struggle for comprehension and an adapting to bewildering circumstances.
The Ancestor is a fantastic novel of identity theft, but unlike anything I've read before ...... family, loss, grief, regrets, a search for understanding and acceptance of a new and strange reality, which then morphs into envy, which then inspires covetousness and reveals a darker side of Wyatt's character hitherto unseen. There is an event in his past that does indicate he is a serious man and one you don't take liberties with, but there's also a certain naivety about how he was duped into taking action.
I liked the dual time-line aspect of the book. I enjoyed reading about Wyatt in the late 1800s, leaving his family and embarking on his quest and the subsequent adventures afterwards. These adventures are kind of drip fed into the narrative as he indulges in some pretty serious drug use as a method of recovering his past and his memories. At my age I go upstairs for three things, remember two when I get there and stand on the landing scratching my head. I doubt I shall resort to Wyatt's methods to banish my forgetfulness.
In the present day, I liked how he quickly adapted to his surroundings and managed to inveigle himself into the life of Travis Barlow, his descendant. There's a bit of tension surrounding the Barlow clan, with Travis's unsettled marriage close to home and a generation removed we have Travis's parents still struggling with the loss of their other wayward son. Travis's father, Stu is a cop and is suspicious of Wyatt's intentions towards Travis and his family, which helps add some zest to the situation. Grayson, Travis's best friend has similar issues with Wyatt's sudden appearance in town, a lot of which can be attributed to jealousy and a sense of losing Travis.
It's interesting to compare and contrast Wyatt and Travis - the two main characters and doppelgangers - their capabilities and faults; their contrasting relationships with other townfolks; one's a bit of a dreamer, one's a bit more pragmatic and ruthless. It's the strong vs the weak. Wyatt's predatory wolf-like cunning is fully exposed before the end of the book.
Conclusions....... a great premise, with a really imaginative set-up. There's a decent pace which never stagnates and maintained my interest throughout, and its populated by well described characters and plenty of incident. There's a lot of little sideshows and unmentioned story tangents and characters that add to the overall drama. While I felt there was a certain inevitability about the outcome, it didn't spoil my enjoyment at all. If anything, it has possibly whet my appetite for another book featuring Wyatt.
4.5 from 5
Lee Matthew Goldberg has been read and enjoyed before - short story De/tached and the thriller The Desire Card. I'll be reading him again in future.
Read - September, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 350
Source - review copy received from the author
Frmat - paperback ARC