A specialist in prehistoric ceramics, Ren Taylor launched her archaeological career with the unearthing of a stunning set of bowls in southern New Mexico. The bowls seem to belong to one remarkable 12th-century artist, and Ren is convinced they hold the secret to understanding a woman who died a thousand years earlier. Now in 2009, archaeologist Silas Cooper invites Ren to the remote Cañada Rosa, where he’s discovered more evidence of her artist.
Ren has an unusual connection to the dead, a connection that’s revealed during her stay in this lush canyon disconnected from the outside world. When she was twelve years old, her brother was killed in a car accident. Yet he did not vanish completely. Ever since then, he has been a not-quite-concrete presence, inserting himself into the quiet, still moments of the day, nothing more than the snatch of a song or a silhouette in the moonlight.
Ren is someone who lives with her ghosts. And now, at the canyon, she starts to see her artist, a young woman with dark eyes and strong hands, shaping bowls and tending fires before she disappears into the wind. She sees a woman in a macaw-feather skirt walking barefoot through the sand. The ghosts are holding out clues, and Ren is tempted to immerse herself entirely in their past. But then there is Silas, a man who has reached Ren in a way no one has managed since her brother died. Ultimately Ren begins to suspect that she must choose the ghosts or Silas, the past or the present.
Ren’s story explores the ways we connect to each other and the ways we keep each other at a distance. The novel revolves around our bonds to those we’ve loved and lost, the bonds of family, and the bonds we have with those who have come before us.