The Invention of Everything Else

Written by Samantha Hunt
Review by Susanne Dunlap


In 1943 Louisa and her father Walter live alone in a house in Hell’s Kitchen. Louisa is a chambermaid at the Hotel New Yorker, and her father is the night watchman at the New York Public Library in Bryant Square. Walter is a dreamer who has spent his life mourning the loss of his true love, Louisa’s mother, who died an indeterminate amount of time before. His one passion is science and science fiction, a passion he shares with his best friend Azor, who has been mysteriously missing for the past two years.

Enter the true hero of the piece: Nikola Tesla, an old, impoverished inventor living on the 34th floor of the Hotel New Yorker (visitors can still stay in that room). Louisa, who cannot resist snooping in the rooms she cleans, finds her way into his extraordinary abode and discovers a remarkable life, written in hidden papers. But things take a strange turn when Azor turns up again out of nowhere, claiming to have built a time machine that gives Walter hope that he can return to the past and have just one more conversation with his beloved wife, Freddie.

To try to encapsulate this remarkable story, how Hunt weaves together the threads of several lives—current and in times past—in a poignant and believable dénouement would be to do this beautiful novel a disservice. From the language that creates a magical atmosphere imbued with longing and possibility, to the perfectly paced, inevitable and yet surprising drama, The Invention of Everything Else is a joy to read.

A word of warning: you may just fall hopelessly in love with the striking Mr. Tesla, with the winsome Louisa, the dreamy Walter, the preposterous and impractical Azor, and the solid, secure Arthur, Louisa’s beau, and possibly find yourself wishing that you could turn the clocks back and enter their world.