Magdalena has an unsettling gift. She sees the truth about people written on their skin--names, dates, details both banal and profound--and her only relief from the onslaught of information is to take off her glasses and let the world recede. Mercifully, her own skin is blank. When she meets Neil, she is intrigued to see her name on his cheek. He's in Paris for the summer, studying a medieval pilgrimage to the coast of Spain, where the body of Saint Jacques is said to have washed ashore, covered in scallop shells. Magdalena, desperate to make things right after her best friend dies--a tragedy she might have prevented--embarks on her own pilgrimage, but not before Neil falls for her, captivated by her pale eyes, charming Eastern European accent, and aura of heartbreak. Neil's father, Richard, is also in Paris, searching for the truth about his late mother, a famous expatriate American novelist who abandoned him at birth. All his life Richard has clung to a single memory of his mother--her red shoes--which her biographers agree he never could have seen. In Adelia Saunders' arresting debut, secrets are revealed among forgotten texts in the old archives of Paris, on a dusty cattle ranch in the American West, along ancient pilgrim paths, and in a run-down apartment in post-Soviet Lithuania. By chance, or perhaps by fate, the novel's unforgettable characters converge, and Magdalena's uncanny ability may be the key to their happiness.
Adelia Saunders has a master's degree from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and a bachelor's degree from NYU. She has taught English in Paris, written for an independent newswire at the United Nations, and assisted an agricultural economist in Uganda. She grew up in Durango, Colorado, and currently lives with her husband and two small children in New York City, where she works for an international think tank. This is her first novel.