At first glace, a novel that attempts to bring together the crime of art forgery with the underworld of human cloning seems quite at odds with itself. However, art and science are not always polar opposites, especially if they exist for the sole purpose of recreating what is most important.
Following the tragic loss of her young son, Elm Howells struggles to adapt to her painfully altered life. Though her eye and passion for art is seemingly untouchable, she can't help but feel engulfed by feelings of failure and emptiness. Halfway across the world in Paris, artist Gabriel Cannois shares Elm's feelings as he attempts to navigate his way out of his great grandfather's famous shadow, while burdened with the ability to masterfully reproduce his greatest pieces. Elm's desire to bring back her son slowly merges with Gabriel's need for success and recognition, which will cause the pair to stretch their morals well beyond their breaking points.
What struck me from the start of A Nearly Perfect Copy was Allison Amend's ability to voice the conflicting thoughts of a grieving mother. While Elm attempts to adjust to new interactions with her husband, daughter and friends, her internal battles become increasingly frustrated, but no less understandable.
"Here was a city where she knew no one, where no one knew she'd been Ronan's mother. This feeling was simultaneously thrilling and devastating. She could be free. She was not under examination as a woman who had lost a child. The flipside of being where no one knew about Ronan was the feeling that all traces of him had been erased from the collective unconscious. She wanted to tell people on the street, 'I had a son,' just so there would be some recognition of him."
With the introduction of Gabriel's character and the man who becomes his guide through the world of forgery, the novel takes a fun turn. The descriptions of Gabriel's process, including how he makes aged paper and brings together images from his great-grandfathers pieces, are some of the book's most fascinating. Yet, the scenes detailing the ways a fake can be identified are even more intriguing.
As the story progresses, Amend handles the introduction of cloning well. What could have thrown a well paced, art-centered novel into strange, sci-fi territory is instead touched lightly on the edges. The technicalities of the cloning are not necessary to the plot, so it was refreshing to keep that balance. Strangely enough, I felt somehow let down by the last few pages of the novel, almost as if everything was a little too well wrapped up.
Still, A Nearly Perfect Copy is just that. I give Allison Amend tons of praise for a well written, enjoyable novel that brings together unique ideas.