By Christopher R. Beha
Tin House Books, $15.95, 255 pages
Charlie Blakeman and Sophie Wilder become friends in college and have a brief love affair after which Sophie disappears from Charlie’s life. Ten years later Sophie is back but more than just time has passed.
What Happened to Sophie Wilder moves between Sophie’s story and Charlie’s but his is a more aimless existence, whereas Sophie’s experiences are at once more traditional yet more mysterious. She has a career as a writer and a marriage but it’s her conversion to Catholicism and its impact on every aspect of her life that lies at the center of the story. Rather than bringing her peace she embraces a dogma and holds to it even when her thoughts, feelings and ultimately actions, are in direct conflict with her faith. One wonders if she is serving herself or God. For Charlie, whose feelings for Sophie remain the same throughout the book, the fact that “I may have seen a layer that others didn’t know, but the true depths remained forever unavailable” is an almost cruel puzzle. He wants to understand her but cannot.
Author Beha is a skilled storyteller, floating along on the surface of the plot while weaving multiple layers of emotion and reality underneath. His careful introspective style means that when finished the reader will still be left to wonder what happened to Sophie Wilder.