Historical fiction is not a genre toward which I naturally gravitate, but I've read a great deal of Mark Twain's work and studied a bit about his life (as an undergraduate, I had a class devoted entirely to Twain). I knew nothing about Henry Stanley beyond his most famous quote: "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" The two were contemporaries and, apparently, lifelong friends. Hijuelos uses this as a starting premise and tells a sprawling, decades-long story about the two men, both together and separately. According to the afterword written by Hijuelos' wife (Hijuelos himself died while revising the manuscript for this book), everything in it is his creation, though I wondered some as I was reading it. It's an interesting story which drags only at a few points, and is told in a fascinating style: a mixture of third person omniscient, letters from Twain & Stanley to one another, and memoir writing. Much of the early part of the book (over 100 pages worth) consists of a memoir written by Stanley concerning his meeting with Twain and their early years together. It's not until the end of the book (450 pages in) that we find out what Twain's reaction to the memoir and its truth or fabrication is. Like I said, not my usual, but an interesting read that I mostly enjoyed. I received an advanced readers copy of the book, but it was scheduled to be released this week.