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  • Mandy McHugh

The Ancestor, Danielle Trussoni: A Review


I've had a string of books recently where I felt I've never read anything like them--and The Ancestor is one such title in this category. While there are many elements that felt familiar, nothing added up to my expectations. Bert's marriage is on the rocks following a string of miscarriages from which she can't emotionally recover, when a strange envelope arrives informing her that she is the sole living heir to a mysterious castle in Northern Italy. The estate lawyers want to speak to her, so as quickly as she finds out that she is, in fact, a countess, she's off to a remote mountain castle to meet an elderly distant relative and handle the affairs. What follows is a rabbit hole of genealogy, evolution, mental health analysis, myth, and mystery. I'm hesitant to say too much about the course of events because this book is an experience. Never once was I sure where it was going to go. At times, it was like reading a spooky hotel narrative; others, a complex family drama with notes of Gothic suspense. Mostly, we follow Bert as she discovers where she comes from, and the importance of her ancestral roots. One quote that perfectly sums up this book: The mind is like warm wax, the world like a brass seal pressed into it. Such imprints are forever stamped into us. I am eternally marred. And I am. Trussoni questions everything you might know about homo sapiens and evolution, proposing that Bert has ties to an ancient tribe, removed from modern civilization, and this tie is the reason she was brought to Italy in the first place. Layers upon layers go into this narrative, and it's impossible to choose one aspect to focus on. This is a book about family, about leaving family, about accepting family. This is a book about history and its impact on the future, current civilization and its consequences. This is also a book about the dangers of knowledge and the desire to know. The pacing was a bit of a miss for me. The beginning stretched on, and all of a sudden, other parts felt super rushed. Perhaps this was done purposely, but Bert's acceptance of strange and truly shocking information did not always feel grounded, and for that, I didn't quite fall head-over-heels with this one. Interesting, complex, and fascinating, The Ancestor is one hell of a ride.


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