Keegan's Reviews > Remainder

Remainder by Tom McCarthy
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's review
Mar 24, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012
Read from March 24 to 25, 2012

This was, without hyperbole, one of the best books I have read in some time.

The book deals with what a lot of post-2000 books deal with: trauma. The narrator, who I don't think is named, tells the reader in the first few pages that he was hit in the head by some mysterious falling object. This landed him a sweet settlement, and from there everything went slowly insane.

The reason I didn't give this book five stars is that it does start achingly slow, and had I not been assigned to read this for the module I am teaching on, I might not have made it past the first couple of chapters. Besides the traumatic event and how the narrator deals with it, McCarthy is keenly interested in exploring how memory functions, particularly following a meaningless and traumatic event. Because of this, there is a lot of redoubling and returning. There is a lot of finely detailed description of mundane things as the narrator tries to graft meaning onto the random and uncontrollable universe.

As he recovers from his event, he tries to control more and more of his life, leading to several re-enactments which get more and more bizarre as the book builds. Eventually, the narrators attention to detail and the way he suffuses every minute aspect with meaning becomes intoxicating. The reader is left to drift off in the contemplation of the way sun light plays across the floor or how many steps and what musculature is needed to lift a hand up.

The re-enactments become more and more...unbelievable, but like the others involved in it, the reader wants to see where this is all going. There are several other people who get involved in these detailed re-stagings of events, and no one seems particularly bothered by it. Towards the end, people start to become equally addicted. The reader follows suit (in fact, I read the last 100 or so pages in one sitting, just waiting to see where this all ends). It can only end in one way, and when I got there I was equally surprised and...the opposite of surprised. I had expected it to happen, but at the same time, I couldn't believe that it was going to happen. Like watching a car crash, but watching that same car crash over and over and over until every one thing that happens is connected to the rest, and every action is jammed with meaning.

This book, after the first few chapters, was one of the most engaging reads I have had the pleasure of burning through in a weekend.

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