Something sinister is afoot at the Museum of Asian Art. Its longtime director Joseph Lattimore has suddenly and inexplicably quit, leaving his diminutive and squeaky-voiced lieutenant Promise Whittaker in charge. One curator is hell-bent on acquiring a bowl that belonged to Thomas Jefferson; another is determined to have a son, and has been pilfering her department’s travel funds to buy fertility treatments. But why did the director leave? And why is a workman employed by a fast-food company measuring the conference room?
The museum, not coincidentally, resembles the Freer Gallery (its scurrilous overlords are the National Institution of Science and Art in Washington, DC). The director’s hasty departure turns out to have everything to do with the museum’s propitious location next to a metro exit, and the fact that most of its visitors are tourists in search of food and bathrooms, not lovers of Asian art.
Promise, navigating treacherous straits at work while dealing with unexpectedly tricky events at home, is in over her head: while Joseph, having run away to an archaeological dig in the Taklamakan Desert, is having troubles of his own. But, amidst the fragments, not all is broken.
Zuravleff delightfully skewers the museum world, and peoples it with likable and engaging characters. A lovely novel.