But the plot provides only a small part of the pleasures of A Father's Affair. The book has an easy reference to theology, is often wonderfully sexy, and has finely observed descriptions of Dutch landscapes. Late in the book, Armin and the boy who is and is not his son go out to the Dutch islands for a few days of fishing and bird-watching:
. . . on the islands, nature is still important. Whether the tide is out or in. Whether the wind is pounding the water against the dike, or against the dunes. Whether the moon is bright enough to go looking for owls. Whether the lapwing is brooding. Whether the brent geese have come back, or just left for their nesting grounds in western Siberia.
One of the successes of A Father's Affair is that its narrative can have passages like this, yet the pacing never seems to slow or lose its focus on Armin's desperate search.
Karel van Loon reads from his novel at Shaman Drum Bookshop on Tuesday, February 17.
[Originally published in February, 2004.]