Cathy's Reviews > So Many Ways to Begin: A Novel

So Many Ways to Begin by Jon McGregor
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's review
Jan 29, 11

bookshelves: first-reads
Read from January 21 to 28, 2011

First, let me say “Thank You” to the folks at Bloomsbury and Goodreads “First-Reads” for the opportunity to put a copy of McGregor’s “So Many Ways To Begin” into my hands.
“So Many Ways To Begin“ is an apt title for the journey of the protagonist, David Carter. McGregor takes an ordinary story and has it unfold through episodic chapters revolving around collected items linked to David’s life. This collection provides the framework for the story. Though not sequential in nature, the reader is provided glimpses of David’s history in these short chapters, windows to illuminate a growing boy’s life.

David Carter always loved museums and collecting things. “It seemed perfectly natural to him, to be amazed by the physical presence of history, to be able to stand in front of an ancient object and be awed by its reach across time.” His collection reveals his love of collected personal artifacts and his aspiration to work in a museum.

Cataloging physical reminders of a life is analogous with the complexity of one’s existence. David’s life is shattered by a long-held secret accidentally revealed by a family friend. History is much about who we are. With his secret revealed, David’s world is forever altered. “These broken pieces were all he had; like keepsakes pulled from the ruins. Fragile traces, dug from the cold wet earth.”

The two quotes above speak to the literary caliber of the author. This is not a light read, but rather a tale that delves into complex issues of human nature, e.g. one’s coming of age, betrayal and loss, and all forms of relationships.

McGregor’s novel is a recitation of David’s personal history and his life’s journey told in a beautiful and well-written story. It is obvious to this reviewer why this novel was long-listed as a Man Booker nomination. A very good and enjoyable read.

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