A young woman who lost her mother to climbing is resolved to summit India’s highest peak, and instigates a treacherous and revelatory expedition, in this daring and lyrical novel.
Mysterium, known as Mount Sarasvati, looms over the Indian Himalayas as the range’s tallest peak. Sarasvati “Sara” Troy is determined to reach the peak for which she was christened, and to climb it in honor of her mother, who perished in a mountaineering accident when Sara was just a child. She asks her father, a celebrated mountaineer and philosophy professor, to organize and lead the expedition.
The six climbers he recruits are an uneasy mix. They include his longtime friend Dr. Arun Reddy, a recent widower and Reddy’s son, who often challenges his father; Wilder Carson, the acclaimed climber who is tormented by the death of his brother; Wilder’s wife, Vida, a former lover of Dr. Reddy; and the distinguished scholar of climbing Virgil Adams and his wife, Hillary. Porters and Sherpas are recruited in India to assist and be part of the team.
The party’s journey is harrowing, taking them from the mountain’s gorge, into its sanctuary, and finally onto the summit, a path that evokes the hell, purgatory, and heaven of Dante’s Inferno. As the air thins and this unforgettable journey unfolds, Sara emerges as a Beatrice-like figure, buoying her companions up the mountain through the sheer strength and beauty of her being. Both monumental quest and dreamlike odyssey, Mysterium is infused with the language of climbing and profound existential insight.
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“First, there is the superbly drawn cast of complex and compelling characters, none more beguiling than Sarasvati ‘Sara’ Troy, the young woman who, with a vision of climbing the mountain that is her namesake, puts the plot in motion. Then, there is the masterfully executed suspense and drama of the climb. Finally, there is the lovely and lyric writing about the mountain herself—as monolith and metaphor. These three pleasures combine to make Mysterium impossible to put down.”
Pam Houston, #1 Los Angeles Times bestselling author