When Odile Meével agrees to help smuggle out of the former Soviet Union several works of Communist folk art - richly detailed May Day banners - in exchange for a quick $5,000 in cash, this clothing designer doesn't bargain for more than a few days' worth of illicit activities. But by the time she arrives back home in Paris to deliver the contraband to Turner, the American art dealer who hired her, her partner-in-crime, Thierry Colin, previously a stranger, has disappeared. That's not all: her apartment is ransacked for no discernible reason, and she will have already unintentionally set in motion a chain of events that will put her and those closest to her in grave danger.
Odile's American husband, Max, has no inkling of her clandestine weekend. An independent filmmaker, he recently tasted a bit of long-awaited commercial success but now finds himself at a crossroads with his work and preoccupied by the next phase of his career, when by chance he makes a surreal discovery: unauthorized copies of his first film, with a technically expert alternative ending. Baffled as to who would have either the motive or the means to commit this intellectual vandalism, he launches his own single-handed investigation into the origins of the fraudulent DVDs, an effort that will introduce him to elements of the Russian mafia and possibly a human-trafficking operation.
Meanwhile, he's knee-deep in his next, unexpected project: filming the actual lives of people very close to him and Odile: a Dutchman and his American girlfriend, both of them fervently dedicated to restoring their home, a beautiful old houseboat docked in the Seine. It's an increasingly vital endeavor that takes on a strange degree of meaning for filmmaker and subjects alike. Then, as if this weren't enough excitement for one man, Max begins to suspect that Odile is having an affair.
The deceptions between husband and wife deepen and multiply, even as the details of their respective escapades appear ever more connected. Soon Odile and Max must confront exactly what they are willing to do for the sake of their marriage and, in fact, their lives. Turner, too, has many irons in the fire, which suddenly seems on the verge of burning out of control.
Highly atmospheric, perceptively written and grippingly suspenseful, The Same River Twice is a pause-resister that also poses questions of existential importance. What is the nature of inevitability? Do we have agency over our own destinies? And is a different ending possible?
©2010 Ted Mooney (P)2011 Audible, Inc.