Joshua Mansfield and Sheri Zod
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This whimsical short novel is a story about choices, about what happens (for better or worse) when people step off the beaten path. Joshua Mansfield and Sheri Zod journey through a fantastic, allegorical American Southwest accompanied---or led---by totem animals or spirit guides. At first they both seem to be finally escaping the life of an older "career" student, but the apparently chance finding of a discarded letter initiates a quest to find out what happened to a pair of lovers, Joan and Karl, thirty years earlier---a story which increasingly resonates with Joshua and Sheri.
Along the way they meet ghosts, sad machines, baffling art, mirages, mysterious figures in a literally petrified forest, a hostel for lost souls, and a cafe for lost dreams as they search for what happened to Joan who ventured off the beaten path a generation earlier. Instead of a travel journal, Joshua writes stories in his notebook, creating interrelated allegories which are as real as the strange world they travel through. It is a journey both inward and outward as Joshua and Sheri are both in their own way "lost souls" navigating the shifting sands between odd cities in a world which is magical, futuristic, and anachronistic, but recognizable because there is an underlying truth to it. In flashbacks we see that being adrift is for both of them uniquely tied to their drive. What---if anything---can finally anchor them?
As mysterious encounters and the discovery of clues, artifacts and magical objects increase it begins to look like the universe is trying to tell them something...or perhaps Joan is...