Kate Wyer's Reviews > Falcons on the Floor

Falcons on the Floor by Justin Sirois
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Apr 06, 2012

it was amazing

Read Sirois’s Falcons on the Floor for paragraphs like this:
Everyone waited for the American election results. Four more years meant more to us than it did to the Americans, I think. There was something about Florida and voting machines or something. I searched on the Internet Florida—swamp land, Seminole Indians, Mickey Mouse, NASA, alligator wrestling—the place seemed like the complete opposite of our city. Every television was on in Fallujah. A week of waiting for the final results.
This quiet paragraph hits hard. It describes the reality of knowing it is only a matter of time before you and your family could be among the displaced, wounded or dead. The anxiety and bitter absurdity of this comes across in a matter-of-fact way. Judgment is absent, or is left up to the reader.
It is Salim who gives the reader the information about the election. He is a young man in love with a girl he met online. It is his desire to connect with her that drives him into the desert and to Ramadi in search of the Internet. Through Salim, the reader experiences that brutal journey in a bodily and emotional way.
His travel partner, Khalil, comes from a hard luck background. Salim describes their relationship, “We never held hands like childhood friends because we both knew we weren’t childhood friends.” They retain this bond that isn’t quite friendship. Khalil is unattached to any certain moral system. He is the sort of character you hold your breath around.
Salim and Khalil have very different ways of relating to the world. The tension created by these differences pushes the story forward; it gives the journey momentum as you try to anticipate what awaits them and how they will react. Siros’s prose style also does a lot of work. Other reviews have called it poetic and lyrical. I’ll call it lyrical, too, but I mean it most in the spontaneous outpouring of thoughts sense of the word. He moves from metaphor to metaphor, insight to insight, in a seemingly effortless way. It feels like Sirois sat down at a desk and the characters wrote the book through him. He does the most important thing a fiction writer can do—he makes you care about his characters. You root for them as they make their way through the three day trek through the desert. You share a sense of relief when they make it to Ramadi. And your shared relief quickly turns to your shared fear.
American characters bookend the story, to great and nail biting effect at the end (the tension is unbelievable).
It is a book about people and their motivations, about what they want and need out of life.
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