I feel like giving three stars is too much, but at the same time not enough. I do not think this is a "bad" book, it just did not live up the potentiaI feel like giving three stars is too much, but at the same time not enough. I do not think this is a "bad" book, it just did not live up the potentially very high expectations I had placed upon it (due in large part to the National Book Award Long-list nod), because of which the onus rests on me, not "Wolf in White Van". I suspect am not the target reader.
Many parts are extremely well written and some passages will stay with me long after I have finished the book. I just find this an extremely SAD book that may appeal more to a certain type of lonely, isolated, and more youthful person than myself. I have always been social and gregarious, I have dealt with loneliness by safety in numbers in friendship and chatter. Sean, the narrator is an outsider, on the fringe of most things-both before and after the "accident" - an observer with a hyper-active imagination.
I have never felt as hopeless as Sean, and I wish we as reader had more of a window in his specific issues that caused his actions and reactions that lead to the "accident".
(Warning--This paragraph is SPOILER-ish, though I have read this info. in reviews on NPR, etc. so it is out there, but just skip it if you want to go into the novel blank) I basically read the novel in a day, in two sittings on a long bus ride and was much more taken in by/invested in the book in the beginning when the "accident" was shrouded in mystery and you did not know it was just a failed suicide attempt. I feel like maybe I am missing something-if it was just a failed suicide attempt why did Sean not finish himself off later instead of living through all the pain, rehab, loneliness and gawking at being disfigured? Did he find himself now special and with purpose, post-accident physically, even beyond the creation of the "Trace Italian" game? Did he have a legit excuse (in his own opinion) now to alienate himself from society and live inside his own mind and a world of imagination?
As a female who was never into video games after a brief Super Mario Brothers obsession that ended when I beat the game in the late 80s, and never having role-playing games I figured that there would be something niche here that I cannot relate to on more than a surface level. But I was wrong, I see a parallel in this imaginary role playing world where they could pretend to be something different to my elaborate world my Barbies played in and where I could escape into a different more glamorous world where I was in charge and who I wanted to be in my confusing teen years.
The "Trace Italian" parts of the novel were my favorite. I loved the way the clues were simply written, but so descriptive, the choose your own adventure-ness' of the game and clues, the explanation of how Sean ran his business and such, how he felt he had purpose and his invented world gave him satisfaction and accomplishment. Even though it was an "old-fashion" via subscription game listed in the backs of magazines delivered by USPS mail game it brought people together in a more concrete way then a computer screen and I can understand that the tangible letter paper in hand gives things weight the internet cannot.
I can see how Lance and Carrie in Kansas, two of the most invested subscribers of Trace Italian found such solace inside the game and got lost inside of the elaborate roll playing search for the Trace Italian that was an escape from real life. But that is where the understanding ends as my mindset and mental state cannot grasp self-harm even in my darkest moments. Too much imagination can be a detriment.
Also, for much of the book I was expecting a type of surprise-twist at the end (like "Invisible Monsters" but Chuck Palahniuk) and was more than a bit disappointed when that didn't happen.
"Its hard to say what Brother ever made of me, but I made a galaxy out of him. And all the lonely stars spiraled toward the center, glowing"
This is su"Its hard to say what Brother ever made of me, but I made a galaxy out of him. And all the lonely stars spiraled toward the center, glowing"
This is such a grim, spare book, but so lovely and there are many plain truths to be found. In the beginning I felt like the books was punching me in the face with its words, but towards the end there were some really beautiful passages, like above. I enjoyed this much more that "Oh Pure and Radiant Heart."