Whenever he is not following strangers in the street, or reading to the blind, or courting his daughter's teacher, Oliver Ripple works in the historical archive of Aquinas College, a small and struggling institution in Chicago. Living with his adolescent daughter, Amanda, he leads an obscure existence, snooping through artefacts of the previous century -- a small number of which lead him to the mystery of Francesca Wallace, a woman who vanished from official college history at the time of the Great Fire of 1871. Starting with a single scrap of paper, Oliver moves from clue to clue in the vast jumble of historical records. As his investigation unfolds, Oliver begins to learn the story of a remarkable woman, and the search takes him on a journey through his own past.
"An Empire of Dust" recounts Oliver Ripple's quest. Set largely in Chicago, circa 2000, it flashes back to the trauma that brought Oliver and Amanda to Chicago. Moreover, Oliver's study of the past is on a collision course with his own present. Endowed with a mix of focus and inattention, of courage and timidity, Oliver records and recalls the steps that led to his present predicament -- steps during which he often feels he is walking in the shoes of others.
ok..what's the novel about? research??
We need some conflict spelled out here or I'm calling in Mrs. O'Leary's cow.