From the opening line, I fell into under the spell of Nathaniel's story about how he and his sister Rachel were abandoned at ages fourteen and sixteen to the care of relative strangers, their third-floor lodger, whom they called The Moth, and the Pimlico Dancer.
After their father departed, going to Asia for his work, never to be seen again, their mother stayed with them for two more weeks, sharing bits of her history, enough to lure them into understanding there was much more to her than they knew. Then suddenly she left them, too.
The Moth welcomes shady company into their home. The Darter brings a string of women, none of whom last long. The teens are left alone, sometimes for days.
Nathaniel discovers their mother's trunk is in the house. She had not left to join her husband. And The Moth wasn't talking. "He was brilliant," The Moth says of their father, "but he was not stable." Both parents are strangers to the teens.
Over the next years, Nathaniel lives in a complicated and uncertain world, accompanying The Darter on nighttime trips that are perhaps criminal activities, and working odd jobs during the day. He has a secret liaison with a girl in empty houses.
Years later, Nathaniel is approached to work in a government position that allows him access to files which he plumbs for information about his mother's war-related work. He visits people from his past. He pieces together who his mother truly was, the life she kept secret, the fear she lived with, and the lover who brought her into a world of danger.
Warlight is about a man's search for his mother, the story of the deeply etched marks left by a lost childhood, and an exploration of the stories we weave together just to survive.
I received a free ebook from First to Read.
by Michael Ondaatje
Published by Knopf
May 08, 2018