“Eliza Factor’s first novel, The Mercury Fountain, explores what happens when a life driven by ideology confronts implacable truths of science and human nature. It also shows how leaders can inflict damage by neglecting the real needs of real people. Though the action takes place between 1900 and 1923, the resonances feel alarmingly contemporary.” — The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice).
The Mercury Fountain takes place at the turn of the twentieth-century in a remote and beautiful stretch of Chihuahuan desert near the border of West Texas and Mexico. Owen Scraperton, a passionate Yankee seeking to atone for his misspent youth, leaves the comforts of Boston’s Beacon Hill for a fresh start in the wilderness. The story follows Owen’s pursuits as he struggles to establish Pristina, a utopian community that attempts to resolve the great questions of labor and race by upholding the ideals of “clarity, unity, and purpose.” The economic foundation of this new world is based on the mining of mercury, a metal that Owen upholds for its usefulness, fluidity, and beauty, while disregarding its darker and more harmful aspects. Although Owen’s thinking may not always be rational, his heart is sincere, and his voice is rich and seductive. He attracts followers from both the Northeast and the local population, just the heterogeneous mix he needs to test his social theories. Buy it at Amazon or directly from Akashic.
“Eliza Factor has wrought a strange, tough book that digs deep into the mind. At turns poetic and eerie, startling and transcendent, it charts the twisting regions of the heart. I haven’t read a book quite like it before.” — Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter
“This is an amazing book. Factor’s writing bumps up against magical realism time and again in the most wonderful way and yet remains excruciatingly real.” — The Historical Novel Society
“There is an eerie sense in this waterless oasis that a dedication to purity breeds sickness, and Factor’s fierce and humbling prose expertly enunciates the sadness of an ideal’s confrontation with reality.” —Publishers Weekly