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Emily St. John Mandel was a National Book Award finalist for her novel Station Eleven.

I don't wish to imply that J.M. Ledgard's magnificent 2013 novel, Submergence, went unnoticed. There were good reviews. And appearances on several very respectable best-books-of-the-year lists. And yet it came and went without much fanfare. There is always a certain randomness in terms of books that fill the sky (to paraphrase Martin Amis's long-ago New York Times piece on Don DeLillo's Underworld) and those that barely rise above the horizon. I can't help thinking that if Submergence had been written by someone better known, it would have been heralded as a masterpiece.

It is a masterpiece, and so it deserves your attention. Ledgard interweaves the stories of Danielle Flinders, a biomathematician preparing to descend in a submersible to the bottom of the Greenland Sea, and James More, a British spy being held captive by jihadists in Somalia. The two met and fell in love some time ago, and now they are reunited—at least in their thoughts. As a writer, I find there are books that serve as guides to the kind of work I'd wish to write. Submergence is a shining model that both sings with tension and radiates immense humanity and tenderness.