Twelve-year-old Toulouse "Tull" Trotter lives on his grandfather's vast Bel-Air parkland estate with his mother, the beautiful, drug-addicted Katrina--a landscape artist who specializes in topiary labyrinths. He spends most of his time with young cousins Lucy, "the girl detective," and Edward, a prodigy undaunted by the disfiguring effects of Apert Syndrome. One day, an impulsive revelation by Lucy sets in motion a chain of events that changes Tull--and the Trotter family--forever.
In this latter-day Thousand and One Nights, a boy seeks his lost father and a woman finds her long-lost love . . . while a family of unimaginable wealth learns that its fate is bound up with two fugitives: Amaryllis, a street orphan who aspires to be a saint, and her protector, a homeless schizophrenic, clad in Victorian rags, who is accused of a horrifying crime.
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Random House Trade Paperbacks
July 08, 2003
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Excerpt from I'll Let You Go by Bruce Wagner
The boy took long walks in the countryfied Bel-Air hills with Pullman, the stately Dane--ears like membranous tepees, one eye blue, the other a forlorn and bottomless brown, jowls pinkening toward nose, arctic-white coat mottled by "torn" patches characteristic of the harlequin breed, the whole length of him an inkspot archipelago--even though the animal didn't seem particularly fond of such locomotion. Great Danes were majestic that way. They could take their jaunt or leave it.
When people learned what each was named, they usually said the two had it wrong--better the noble, gigantine champion to bear the burden of whimsy (Best of Breed to Trotter's T. Lautrec) while his master coupled to Pullman, steady, scholar'd, sleeping car Pullman, nostalgically trestle-trundling under bald hills and starstruck sky, velour shadow of midnight passengers murmuring within. Not that "Pullman" fit so well for the boy, though it might: twelve-year-old Toulouse was thin and dreamy, with the requisite bedroom eyes. His tousled red hair verged on blood-black, and his skin was so clear that the freckles seemed suddenly evicted, their remains the faintest of blurred constellations.
So: Toulouse--etymology unknown. He suspected it had something to do with his dad, as most things cryptic or unspoken usually did. They had christened him Louis, after Grandpa Lou (Mr. Trotter, to the world), and his grandfather was the only one ever to call him that. For all the rest he was Tull. His mother had started it. An abbreviation in his own life, she was a connoisseur of abridgments. Toulouse: the boy always used that name in his head, the way one thinks in a different language. A father tongue.
There are no sidewalks in Bel-Air to speak of, and though his mother, Trinnie, forbade it, the boy and his dog regularly ventured from Grandpa's estate on Saint-Cloud Road to walk the musky, sinuous asphalt lanes--baked warm as loaves--against traffic, so as not to be run down by neighborhood denizens in careering, souped-up Bentleys and polished, high-end SUVs or by celebrity-hunting tourists, who traveled at less speed but were likelier to remain at the scene of an accident. If Pullman was struck, Tull suavely imagined, there'd be victims galore. Like plowing into a mule deer.
They always found themselves at the strange house down the hill, on Carcassone Way. Well, from the road there was no house at all, no sign of the living, not even a graveled drive; merely a filigreed gate with the obscure and rusted barely discernible motto La Colonne D�truite. The entry's metal wings, fastened with a cartoonishly oversized padlock, were under siege by a dusty, haughtily promiscuous creeper, evoking melancholy in the boy--the crass finality of a dream foreclosed. They discovered another way in. He rode the dog's back through a desiccated hedge, the scratchy privet andromeda of a once finely pruned wall, until Pullman reached a clearing--quiddity of lawn smooth as the brim of some kind of wonderland bowler hat.
Inside, the sudden magical oddness of a centuries-old park. The empty, vaulted space, so queerly "public"-feeling, was serenely at odds with the neighborhood's proprietary nature. Intersecting rings of a sundial armillary sphere sat atop a pedestal of English portland stone, and though Pullman drew near, it was not to relieve himself. Rather, he became instantly mindful and mannered; each time they broke in, the animal invariably yawned, downplaying his bold, jungly efforts. Tull Trotter's heart sped, as it did with any adventure to this meadowy place, dipped as it were in trespasser's spice. Mother being a landscape architect of world renown, his catchall mind knew its flora--there, in the green all-aloneness, he communed again with the elegantly attenuated pyramid of the Cryptomerias and pines; the billiardist whimsy of great clipped myrtle balls so carefully, carelessly scattered; a cutting shed made of morning glory; the junipers and wisteria that flanked the still, square ponds; then began his saunter toward the ominous all�e of flat-topped Irish yews.
He knew where those ancient columned soldiers led.
As he entered, the air chilled and darkened. Pullman had vanished as surely as a magician's offering. Tull walked through a phalanx of sentries until far enough in to see the wild, weird thing, two hundred yards off, set apart on a hillock . . . a stout, ruined column, fluted as Doric columns should be, rent with fissures, at least fifty feet in diameter, proportions suggesting it was all that remained of a temple forty stories tall. Whatever peculiar god had made this base had provided it with crazily bejeweled windows too, oval, square and pentagonal, then snapped the tower off five floors up, where tufted weeds sprang from its serrations like hair from an old man's ear. What could he make of it? The boy had never even gotten close enough to peer in. Now he moved inexorably nearer, at once cool and febrile, the capricious breath of open fields rushing at him like a breezy compress on the forehead during a sickbed hallucination.