It's 1888, and Paris is drunk on its own beauty and scientific and artistic accomplishment. The city is poised to host the Universal Exposition, a testimony to French power and colonization, and to unveil its extraordinary centerpiece, the Eiffel Tower. Philippe Normand is a modest, likable physician who, in his profession, is privy to the foibles and addictions of the rich, the desperation of the poor, and the egotism of his colleagues. He is a regular guest at the dinner table of the Balise family, whose health he has cared for over many years. He is especially close to Madou, the strong-willed youngest daughter in the family, who is fed up with the arrogance of French culture and the constraints it puts on women. Philippe himself is lonely, burnt out on his profession, and disillusioned with conventional medical science. While attending a Wild West show that is touring Europe, Madou is strangely drawn to the Native American Black Elk. "Choice" —as he is known in the show—is seen as an oddity by French society; he is a mysterious figure, poised and uncannily intuitive, but desperately homesick. Philippe and Madou try to help him, but it is Choice who ends up transforming the lives of all those around him.
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Published March 14, 2006
History, Literature & Fiction.