Synopses & Reviews
THE KING OF AMERICA traces the short, brilliant life of Stephen Hesse, the first-born son of one of America's wealthiest, most powerful men. Yet Stephen's distinguished paternal lineage and the great privilege it engenders is at odds with the working-class background of his mother, ultimately leading to a scandalous divorce and the replacement of the somber, dark-eyed mother and child with a new family more becoming to a man of Hesse's political ambition. Having been made to feel an outsider in his own family, and having become the sole focus of his lonely, abandoned mother, Stephen Hesse grows up with a feeling of consuming loneliness and restless energy. At Harvard, recovering from a passionate but ultimately unreciprocated love affair, Stephen falls under the sway of a charismatic anthropology professor and, at last, feels a sense of direction and genuine identity. As a hopeful scholar, writer, and art collector for his father's museum, Stephen accompanies Professor Adams to the impossibly strange and distant world of Netherlands New Guinea, where a tribal, Neolithic culture thrives in its last moments before modernity, still practicing its ancient rites of headhunting. There Stephen discovers the Asmat bisj poles--terrifying, glorious, towering pieces of carved woodwork honoring tribal ancestors-which will secure his professional standing and guarantee a lasting place in his father's esteem. But his hard-headed insistence on locating the art before the onset of the monsoon season has tragic consequences...Gillison moves effortlessly from the tropical lushness of New Guinea (where she spent her childhood) to the bastions of East Coast power with the surefootedness of a born novelistand the powers of observation and description of a naturalist. Part love story, part adventure yam, part family tragedy, THE KING OF AMERICA is a breathtaking piece of storytelling.
Loosely based on the mysterious 1961 disappearance of Michael Rockefeller, The King of America traces the short, brilliant life of Stephen Hesse, firstborn son of one of America’s wealthiest, most powerful men. After a lonely and restless childhood in a broken family, Stephen attends Harvard, eventually accompanying his mentor, a charismatic anthropology professor, to the impossibly strange and distant world of New Guinea, where a thriving Neolithic culture still practices its ancient rites. There Stephen hopes to make an archaeological discovery that will secure his professional standing and guarantee him a lasting place in the world’s–and his father’s–esteem. But his hardheaded insistence on securing his treasure before the onset of the monsoon season has tragic consequences.