Booklist: The Reconstruction

June 9, 2011

Review by Michele Leber 

Thirty-one year old sculptor Margaret Fisher is frozen in a state of crisis. Her 10-year marriage (unsatisfactory though it was) has ended; her teeth (the most permanent part of her physical self) are suddenly decaying, and she lacks insurance for extensive dental work; and her current project is late and badly done. Her salvation is a commission from a museum to create a reconstruction of a female Australopithecus afarensis (the same species as Lucy) as it was caught in time three and a half million years ago. The serendipitous reappearance of a former lover and the delivery of a box from her late mother help Margaret understand her heritage and get on with her life, but it is primarily her work that frees her from her paralysis and enables her to begin sculpting again. A resonant first novel, rich with literary parallels and allusions, this is distinguished by Casper’s crisp, sometimes lyrical prose and fine characterizations and is—like the work of the reconstruction itself—supremely satisfying.