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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Scapegoat

The Scapegoat

A Novel

Sara Davis

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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A mesmerizing postmodern debut novel, The Scapegoat is a propulsive and destabilizing literary mystery that follows a man at a university in the San Francisco Bay area as he investigates his father’s death

N is employed at a prestigious California university, where he has distinguished himself as an aloof and somewhat eccentric presence. His meticulous, ordered life is violently disrupted by the death of his estranged father—unanticipated and, as it increasingly seems to N, surrounded by murky circumstances. His investigation leads him to a hotel built over a former Spanish mission, a site with a dark power and secrets all its own. On campus, a chance meeting with a young doctor provokes uncomfortable feelings on the direction of his life, and N begins to have vivid, almost hallucinatory daydreams about the year he spent in Ottawa, and a shameful episode from his past.

Meanwhile, a shadowy group of fringe academics surfaces in relation to his father’s death. Their preoccupation with a grim chapter in California’s history runs like a surreal parallel to the staid world of academic life, where N’s relations with his colleagues grow more and more hostile. As he comes closer to the heart of the mystery, his ability to distinguish between delusion and reality begins to erode, and he is forced to confront disturbing truths about himself: his irrational antagonism toward a young female graduate student, certain libidinal impulses, and a capacity for violence. Is he the author of his o… More…

A mesmerizing postmodern debut novel, The Scapegoat is a propulsive and destabilizing literary mystery that follows a man at a university in the San Francisco Bay area as he investigates his father’s death

N is employed at a prestigious California university, where he has distinguished himself as an aloof and somewhat eccentric presence. His meticulous, ordered life is violently disrupted by the death of his estranged father—unanticipated and, as it increasingly seems to N, surrounded by murky circumstances. His investigation leads him to a hotel built over a former Spanish mission, a site with a dark power and secrets all its own. On campus, a chance meeting with a young doctor provokes uncomfortable feelings on the direction of his life, and N begins to have vivid, almost hallucinatory daydreams about the year he spent in Ottawa, and a shameful episode from his past.

Meanwhile, a shadowy group of fringe academics surfaces in relation to his father’s death. Their preoccupation with a grim chapter in California’s history runs like a surreal parallel to the staid world of academic life, where N’s relations with his colleagues grow more and more hostile. As he comes closer to the heart of the mystery, his ability to distinguish between delusion and reality begins to erode, and he is forced to confront disturbing truths about himself: his irrational antagonism toward a young female graduate student, certain libidinal impulses, and a capacity for violence. Is he the author of his own investigation? Or is he the unwitting puppet of a larger conspiracy?

With this inventive, devilish debut, saturated with unexpected wit and romanticism, Sara Davis probes the borders between reality and delusion, intimacy and solitude, revenge and justice. The Scapegoat exposes the surreal lingering behind the mundane, the forgotten history underfoot, and the insanity just around the corner.

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Praise for The Scapegoat

"Sara Davis's The Scapegoat is ingenious, suspenseful, wise, sad, sometimes very frightening, and often very funny, too. The novel gets at the terrifyingly convincing lies (or stories) that we tell ourselves, inevitably about that which we most need to know. The Scapegoat made me fall in love again with the form of the novel!" —Rivka Galchen, author of Little Labors

"The Scapegoat is a brilliant, mysterious book that challenges every tired idea of what a novel should be. Fast, funny, and deeply disturbing, it reads as though it's been beamed in from some alternate universe, one where the rules of time and space operate just differently enough to create an entirely new kind of storytelling. Sara Davis is some kind of sorcerer. I'll be haunted by this book for a long time to come." —Andrew Martin, author of Cool for America

"Sara Davis's The Scapegoat is a mystery novel in the way Paul Auster's New York Trilogy or Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle are mystery novels: it's an investigation of life, of thinking, of investigation itself. It's impossible to anticipate, and very, very hard to put down." Paul LaFarge, author of The Night Ocean

The Scapegoat is a delight—like a David Lynch movie, a Swedish detective novel, and The Shining combined, with not just an unreliable narrator but an unforgettable one. Sara Davis captures campus life and the ruthlessness of academia in a novel that is at once a chilling murder mystery, a witty academ… More…

"Sara Davis's The Scapegoat is ingenious, suspenseful, wise, sad, sometimes very frightening, and often very funny, too. The novel gets at the terrifyingly convincing lies (or stories) that we tell ourselves, inevitably about that which we most need to know. The Scapegoat made me fall in love again with the form of the novel!" —Rivka Galchen, author of Little Labors

"The Scapegoat is a brilliant, mysterious book that challenges every tired idea of what a novel should be. Fast, funny, and deeply disturbing, it reads as though it's been beamed in from some alternate universe, one where the rules of time and space operate just differently enough to create an entirely new kind of storytelling. Sara Davis is some kind of sorcerer. I'll be haunted by this book for a long time to come." —Andrew Martin, author of Cool for America

"Sara Davis's The Scapegoat is a mystery novel in the way Paul Auster's New York Trilogy or Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle are mystery novels: it's an investigation of life, of thinking, of investigation itself. It's impossible to anticipate, and very, very hard to put down." Paul LaFarge, author of The Night Ocean

The Scapegoat is a delight—like a David Lynch movie, a Swedish detective novel, and The Shining combined, with not just an unreliable narrator but an unforgettable one. Sara Davis captures campus life and the ruthlessness of academia in a novel that is at once a chilling murder mystery, a witty academic noir, and a poignant exploration of an illegitimate son's quest for parental recognition and love.” —Rebecca Curtis, author of Twenty Grand and Other Tales of Love & Money

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Sara Davis

Sara Davis, the daughter of two Stanford immunologists, grew up in Palo Alto, California and received her BA and MFA at Columbia University. She has taught creative writing in New York City and Detroit. She has been awarded residencies from Ucross, Vermont Studio Center, and Ragdale. She lives in Shanghai, China. The Scapegoat is her first book.

image of Sara Daviso
Andria Lo

Sara Davis

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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