The second part of The Soul Thief takes place decades later. Nathaniel never finished his degree, but he recovered his stability. And then Jerome reappears, carrying a series of stories and an oddly familiar book. He continues to be cryptic and unlikable, and he has retained his weird obsession with Nathaniel's life. He tells Nathaniel he is simply the reflection of a national trait — "No one knows who we are here, in this country, because we're all actors, we've got the most fluid cards of identity in the world, we've got disguises on top of disguises, we're the best on earth at what we do, which is illusion. We're all pretenders." Baxter keeps us uncertain about where the pretense ends, where the identity stops, and whether or not it could ever be stolen. It is a troubling effective novel, unforgettable in its uncertainties.
Charles Baxter returns to Ann Arbor to read from his new book at the Ann Arbor Book Festival "Authors at Lunch" on Wednesday, February 13. He also reads from the book at Shaman Drum later that day.
[Review published February 2008]