Where to start with why I loved this novel so much? The Gilded Age is one of my favorite eras, and I love any book where the characters have unusual professions, especially women in STEM careers. Nora is an entomology student at Cornell. The insects in this book are so fascinating, with most of them being lepidoptera, moths and butterflies. Yes, I knew that word prior to reading this book. I learned it in high school zoology. My teacher used to sing difficult scientific terms to us. LEP-o-DOP-ter-a.
The settings in this book are so richly described. Whether it's the somewhat familiar Hudson Valley setting of upstate New York, which isn't too different from Indiana where I grew up or the hot and humid jungles and bustling cities of India, I felt like I was there. I'm not sure which I enjoyed more, the academic Ivy League setting or the exotic Eastern locale. Both read as very real places. I could picture the waterfall that was a place of pain for Nora and relaxation for Owen. At the same time, the sights, sounds, feel, and smell of India, a place I've never been vibrated to life.
There is a large cast of supporting characters. Nora's family is complicated. Her beloved father died tragically, her mother is fragile, and her stepfather is a difficult man. Additionally there are Nora and Owen's friends and mentors, the team in India with scientists, missionaries, and locals who support the field team. Each person brings a different element to this rich story that is far more than a romance. It's women's fiction and covers so many topics from women's roles, scientific discovery, English influence in India, Indian culture and practices, as well as family dynamics and personal struggles.
And then there's Owen. It's rare that I find a character who resonates with me so deeply. While I'm hardly the child of a wealthy man or someone who earned top honors in college, I understood Owen. I'm all but certain he's an ENTP like I am. It was almost comical the way I could predict what he'd do and why. Some might be tempted to be angry with a "rich boy" who appeared not to care about his degree or winning the scholarship for any purpose other than gaining an honor. But I understood. He needed to prove that he could win. Also, he had his own reasons for needing the scholarship money.
As for Owen seeming not to care. That would be me. I'm competitive and work hard. I just don't let such pursuits consume me. I could picture myself casually taking my boat out for a row on the river or sprawling on a ratty blanket by a waterfall to read. Throughout the story, I found Owen to be predictable in a good way. His actions and emotions were logical and understandable.
Things to consider. It is a Christian book and the faith elements are organic and written for mature believers. It's not trite or preachy but thought-provoking. The book is a clean read in that there isn't anything racy, foul language, etc. However, it covers dark topics like prostitution/human trafficking, and some of those elements could be disturbing for younger readers.
If you enjoy rich settings, likable characters, and a complex plot with many themes woven into it, A Mosaic of Wings is the perfect weekend read.