Terrorism is a constant in this near-future tale set in Boston, subway bombings part of the landscape of a country at war and under threat. Suspicion has replaced curiosity, citizens factoring in the dangers of everyday commutes and the need for extra caution.
But life goes on in Harvard Square, students rushing to and from classes. MIT mathematician Leela Moore has begun applying the synchronicity of numbers to musical scores, inventively melding the two. Redefining herself in Boston, Leela has left behind her Southern roots in Promised Land, South Carolina.
Entering the subway under Harvard Square, Leela is enchanted by the plaintive notes of a violin - “Che faro senza Euridice,” an interpretation of the Orpheus myth. Unable to turn away, Leela follows the chords until she finds a young man, Michael Barton (Mishka), of Jewish heritage from Australia. Looking into one another’s eyes, the pair fall into a deep and passionate affair, music the language of their love.
Living together, Leela accepts certain oddities in Mishka’s behavior: unexplained absences, her lover frequently in a world of his own, his haunting music on the violin and the Persian oud evoking memory and longing. Either at the music lab or the Café Marrakesh, she has no reason to doubt Mishka’s excuses.
Abruptly taken to an isolated room, confronted by a stranger in a mask, Leela is questioned about her lover, shown intimate photographs of the two of them, Mishka at a local mosque, speaking with a foreign student at the Café Marrakesh. Uncovering his face, Leela is shocked to see that her interrogator is childhood friend Cobb Slaughter, ex-military and current mercenary, who is in the business of national security. Leela is warned.
With strong ties to a mutual history, Cobb and Leela have grown up together, losing touch only when she leaves for the North. Now here they are face to face, Cobb’s eyes hard with suspicion; Leela refuses to believe her childhood friend could have become the man before her.
Mishka calls from a distant airport to tell Leela of his plans, then disappears from sight. With no idea what has happened to him, the days pass in an anguish of possibilities. Leela contacts teachers he studied with at the university, his mother in Australia, but not a trace. The only help is Cobb, who will not answer her entreaties.
In a masterful manipulation of her characters, Hospital frames an intimate story of love and obsession, each protagonist trapped in the past, long-separated from fathers, bound to one another through circumstance and fate. Chapters riddled with paranoia and real danger, the Orpheus legend is acted out on a world stage, from Boston to Australia to Baghdad, from the corridors of education to the warrens of an underground cave where no one returns to the light. Thrilling, compelling and utterly possible, Hospital speaks to our deepest fears and secret longings, offering redemption at the end of Orpheus’s quest.