The Same River Twice by Ted Mooney

The Same River Twice is that very rare beast—a literary thriller. Patricia Highsmith couldn’t have done it better.” —Jay McInerney

When Odile Mével, a French clothing designer, agrees to smuggle ceremonial May Day banners out of the former Soviet Union, she thinks she’s trading a few days’ inconvenience for a quick thirty thousand francs. Yet when she returns home to Paris to deliver the contraband to Turner, the American art expert behind this scheme, her fellow courier (previously a stranger) has disappeared, her apartment is ransacked for no discernible reason, and she has already set in motion a chain of events that will put those closest to her in jeopardy.

Odile’s American husband, Max, has no inkling of her clandestine moonlighting. An independent filmmaker whose recent taste of commercial success has left him at a crossroads in his career, he by chance makes a surreal discovery: unauthorized copies of his first film, with a technically expert, and completely different, ending. Baffled as to who would have either the motive or the means to commit such intellectual piracy, he investigates this fraud and soon runs up against the Russian mafia and, possibly, a human-trafficking operation. At the same time, he is becoming ever more preoccupied by his next artistic project: filming the actual lives of people intimate to him and Odile, a Dutchman and his American girlfriend who are meticulously restoring their century-old houseboat on the Seine—an endeavor that has fervent meaning for both Max and his subjects. And as if this weren’t excitement enough, he begins to suspect that Odile is having an affair.

Marital deceptions deepen and multiply even as the details of Odile’s and Max’s escapades appear ever more connected. The couple must now confront exactly what they are willing to do for the sake of their marriage and, indeed, their lives. Meanwhile, Turner, too, has a great many irons in the fire, which suddenly threatens to burn out of control.

Hugely atmospheric, perceptively written, and grippingly suspenseful, The Same River Twice is a page-turner that also poses questions of existential importance. What is the nature of inevitability? What agency do we have over our destinies? And is a different ending ever possible?

Ted Mooney is author of three previous novels, Easy Travel to Other Planets (winner of the Sue Kauffman Prize for First Fiction, awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and finalist for Best First Novel at the American Book Awards), Traffic and Laughter, and Singing into the Piano. These works have been translated into Japanese, Italian, German, Dutch, Swedish, and French. His short stories have been published in Esquire, Granta, and The New American Review, among other places, and he has been a frequent contributor to such publications as The Los Angeles Times, Esquire, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Art in America and Artforum. He was senior editor at Art in America magazine for over thirty years and now teaches a graduate seminar at Yale University School of Art. Twice a recipient of Ingram Merrill Fellowships for Writing, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1983. He lives in New York City.

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