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Review: The Ancestor by Lee Matthew Goldberg [damppebbles blog tour stop!]

A man wakes up in present-day Alaskan wilderness with no idea who he is, nothing on him save an empty journal with the date 1898 and a mirror. He sees another man hunting nearby, astounded that they look exactly alike except for his own beard. After following this other man home, he witnesses a wife and child that brings forth a rush of memories of his own wife and child, except he’s certain they do not exist in modern times—but from his life in the late 1800s.

After recalling his name is Wyatt, he worms his way into his doppelganger Travis Barlow’s life. Memories become unearthed the more time he spends, making him believe that he’d been frozen after coming to Alaska during the Gold Rush and that Travis is his great-great grandson. Wyatt is certain gold still exists in the area and finding it with Travis will ingratiate himself to the family, especially with Travis’s wife Callie, once Wyatt falls in love. This turns into a dangerous obsession affecting the Barlows and everyone in their small town, since Wyatt can’t be tamed until he also discovers the meaning of why he was able to be preserved on ice for over a century.

A meditation on love lost and unfulfilled dreams, The Ancestor is a thrilling page-turner in present day Alaska and a historical adventure about the perilous Gold Rush expeditions where prospectors left behind their lives for the promise of hope and a better future.

The question remains whether it was all worth the sacrifice…

About Lee Matthew Goldberg:

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE DESIRE CARD, THE MENTOR, and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. His Alaskan Gold Rush novel THE ANCESTOR is forthcoming in 2020. He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, Cagibi, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press, Monologging and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at

The Good

This is a really interesting concept! That Wyatt and Travis–the two main perspectives–are related, as well as living parallel problems emphasizes the narrative connection between their two plots. One man is in danger of losing everything loves, and one man already has (as he believes). I thought the diary entries from Wyatt were also well integrated into an otherwise present centered plot. Since Wyatt himself has trouble remembering his past, those chapters very much do read as his reading his own history.

The Okay

Both characters are highly flawed men, not to say that the characters around them are perfect either. There’s a lot of emphasis that humanity isn’t perfect and that’s a good thing! It can be frustrating, though, to know the thoughts of a character during an interaction they have with another character, believing things should be different. The story definitely makes you root for certain people only to find they make choices you disagree with.

Final Thoughts

One of the most fascinating parts of this concept for me was the idea that an ancestor is looking in on the future. Seeing Travis’s life viewed from both his own and from Wyatt’s perspectives really helps round out the background to the plot. Because of who Wyatt is, much of his perspective is classified as an outsider looking in which I don’t think is often the perspective we get in novels. It’s easy to be confused by external plots when the narrator of a story has led us to believe certain things, but there’s no room for that here.

By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

One reply on “Review: The Ancestor by Lee Matthew Goldberg [damppebbles blog tour stop!]”

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