Samantha Gillison's second novel, THE KING OF AMERICA, begins with
a watery death. An American art collector named Stephen Hesse and
his crew are floating on a makeshift catamaran in the Arafura Sea
in New Guinea when a monsoon topples the boat. After hours of
clinging to the hull, Stephen tries to swim the twenty miles to
shore and is never seen again.
This introduction to the novel and its headstrong main character is
also its conclusion, as Gillison, who spent much of her childhood
in New Guinea, uses this tragic event as a spring board into
Stephen's life. After his death, she travels backwards in time to
Stephen's birth and childhood and follows him through college, an
affair with an older woman named Sheila, and his anthropological
and art collecting trips to New Guinea.