Rich, eccentric Tim Chambers, resident of Chicago and Rome, has died, and his estranged son Jack has been named executor of the estate. Chambers was a master of manipulation, and has left a manuscript with instructions for its publication. Entitled Indigo, A Manual of Light, it is nothing less than a set of instructions for teaching oneself to assume the aura of invisibility. Jack has inherited nothing of his father’s fortune, which goes to half-sister Louise and to a protege named Natalie, but he’s been designated the estate executor. Resentful and perplexed, he sets out to accomplish his assignment as quickly as possible. Traveling to Rome with Louise, Jack is greatly disconcerted to find himself powerfully attracted to her. When he meets Natalie, an artist, he is equally drawn to her. His time in Rome grows increasingly surreal, as Natalie encourages him to follow the bizarre process set out in the Manual of Light.
Beautifully written, author Joyce imbues his tale with the imagery of light and color, which works especially well in the Roman setting. The deceased Tim Chambers is very much a presence, though not in the ghostly sense. The narrative is interrupted by both a series of flashbacks and chapters from the manual, and at times, like Jack, the reader wonders what is real and what is illusion. He gradually arrives to the realization that his father is still manipulating him and others from the grave, which creates a sort of mild paranoia. Compelling on the psychological and metaphysical levels, the novel ends with a final conundrum that does not quite dispel all its mysteries.