Egypt, 1964. The great temple at Abu Simbel must be rescued from the rising waters of the Aswan Dam. Block by block it is to be dismantled and resurrected sixty metres higher. This most delicate and daunting of tasks is overseen by Avery, a young engineer who at the same time is carefully, and joyfully, constructing a shared life with his new wife, Jean.
But not everything can be saved once the floodgates have opened. Villages will be deluged. Graves will be moved. Thousands will be exiled from their ancient homes and from the river that has been their lifeblood, and no feat of engineering can prevent this.
As the temple is taken apart and rebuilt, Avery and Jean suffer a terrible loss of their own. Their separate journeys through the landscape of grief will take them from Egypt, to Canada, to lands that have been flooded and reconfigured and homes that have been lost, to a guerrilla painter of the past whose story of destruction, reconstruction and replication in war-devastated Poland is built out of equal parts hope and despair.
Weaving historical moments with the quiet intimacy of human lives, The Winter Vault tells of the ways in which we salvage what we can from the violence of life. It is the story of a husband and a wife trying to find their way back to each other; of people and nations displaced and uprooted and of the myriad means by which we all seek out a place we can call home. It is a breathtaking and heartbreaking novel about the inescapability of memories, the devastation of loss, and the restorative power of love.