Winner of the 2008 Governor General's Award for Fiction Montreal during the turbulent mid-1980s: Chernobyl has set Geiger counters thrumming across the globe, HIV/AIDS is cutting a deadly swath through the gay population worldwide, and locally, tempers are flaring over the recent codification of French as the official language of Quebec. Hiding out in a seedy apartment near campus, Alex Fratarcangeli ("Don't worry. . . . I can't even pronounce it myself"), an awkward, thirty-something grad student, is plagued by the sensation that his entire life is a fraud. Scarred by a distant father and a dangerous relationship with his ex Liz, and consumed by a floundering dissertation linking Darwin's theory of evolution with the history of human narrative, Alex has come to view love and other human emotions as "evolutionary surplus, haphazard neural responses that nature had latched onto for its own insidious purposes." When Alex receives a letter from Ingrid, the beautiful woman he knew years ago in Sweden, notifying him of the existence of his five-year-old son, he is gripped by a paralytic terror. Whenever Alex's thoughts grow darkest, he recalls Desmond, the British professor with dubious credentials whom he met years ago in the Galapagos. Treacherous and despicable, wearing his ignominy like his rumpled jacket, Desmond nonetheless caught Alex in his thrall and led him to some life-altering truths during their weeks exploring Darwin's islands together. It is only now that Alex can begin to comprehend these unlikely life lessons, and see a glimmer of hope shining through what he had thought was meaninglessness.
Nino Ricci's first novel, Lives of the Saints, was published in fifteen countries and won a host of awards, including the Canadian government's premier literary prize, the Governor General's Award for Fiction, and, in England, the Betty Trask Award and the Winifred Holtby Prize. It formed the first volume of a trilogy that was completed by In a Glass House and Where She Has Gone and that was adapted as a miniseries starring Sophia Loren and Kris Kristofferson. Ricci is also the author of Testament, winner of the Trillium Award, and was the inaugural winner of the Alistair MacLeod
Award for Literary Achievement. Nino Ricci's newest novel, The Origin of Species, earned him his second Governor General's Award. Ricci lives in Toronto, and is a past president of the Canadian Centre of International PEN.