Paul Auster's Book of Illusions is a novel published in 2002 but set in Vermont in the 1980s. The protagonist is a professor of film studies, Paul Zimmer, whose wife and two children died in a plane crash. Zimmer becomes depressed, goes on leave from his job, and spends his time drinking and watching TV and trying to hold on to memories of his dead wife and child. One day he sees part of a silent film starring actor Hector Mann (born Chaim Mandelbaum), and becomes intrigued by him, deciding to watch all his films. He spends the next three months traveling around the world researching Mann's films and writing a book on Mann, who mysteriously disappeared in 1929.
Although Mann is believed to be dead, Zimmer receives a letter from a woman claiming to be Mann's wife saying Mann is alive, albeit frail and elderly, living in New Mexico, and wishes to meet Zimmer. Alma, the daughter of the woman who played opposite Mann, visits Zimmer, to persuade him to go to New Mexico. A romance develops between Zimmer and Alma and they fly to New Mexico together and watch films Mann made in secret. Zimmer recovers from his depression.