The Metaphysical Touch

“A playful, intelligent novel. . . Brownrigg explores our ideas about knowledge and certainty with a light and rewarding touch.” —The New Yorker

It is 1991, and Emily Piper is a graduate student finishing her dissertation on metaphysics when her home and all her belongings are destroyed in the great Oakland-Berkeley fires. With her life’s work in cinders, she retreats in shock to the small coastal town of Mendocino, sharing a home there with a newly divorced woman and her seven-year-old daughter. It is then that Emily, known as Pi, becomes hesitantly involved in the early days of Net chat rooms. Soon Pi wanders into the quixotic thoughts of JD, a mysterious figure living on America’s opposite coast, who is posting his Diery (an early Blog). What develops between these two searching souls is a tentative, stimulating and perilous relationship. Who is JD? And who, now, is Pi?

This highly original, gripping, and thought-provoking story of the ways connections form between people gives new meaning to the “mind/body problem”, and offers a humane and surprising look at the surprising shapes of love.

Selected as a New York Times Notable Book of 1999; also included in the Los Angeles Times’ Book Review‘s selections of best fictions of the year.


Available in hardcover, paperback and e-book.



“A sweet, smart, sexy first novel [that] humanizes cyberspace.” —Newsweek

“A brainy and ingenious story. . . Ms. Brownrigg’s novel is vital, provocative, and written with wit and venturesomeness. . . Captivating.” —Richard Eder, The New York Times

“Brownrigg wonderfully captures the ghostly dance of presence and absence that can characterize digital relationships. . . A startling affirmation of the transformative powers of the word.” —Erik Davis, The Voice Literary Supplement

“Witty and smart. . . The Metaphysical Touch is a serious and intelligently wrought piece of fiction.” —Geoff Nicholson, The New York Times Book Review

“An offbeat, unexpectedly moving romance that doesn’t sacrifice tenderness for trendiness.” —Entertainment Weekly

The Metaphysical Touch is a fine first novel, by turns moving and thought-provoking. It’s a book about voices, about how they engage us. . . Brownrigg has managed to say something significant about our seemingly endless need for connection, the ways that, even within the most dislocated social landscapes, we seek to touch—and be touched.” —LA Weekly

“Lively, lovely, witty, intense as well as comical. . . a debut that delivers, and a novel that matters.” —Stephen Dixon