Drew's Reviews > Trader

Trader by Charles  de Lint
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's review
Nov 01, 2009

really liked it
Read in November, 2009

Charles De Lint isn't a perfect writer from a literary standpoint, and every time I read one of his books there are a few moments where I find myself restructuring his sentences in my head, or changing some wording around, to make it all flow more smoothly. Despite all of this, I adore his books. He goes so far beyond making up for slight weaknesses in his style that it seems petty to even bring them up. The characters in his books are more like real people I actually know than any other literary characters I've ever encountered, and I feel like he understands and captures the tragic beauty of the human condition in a way that art rarely achieves. His stuff is incredible, and "Trader" is no exception.

This is a book about Max Trader, a luthier (that's someone who builds guitars) who wakes up one morning in the body of a good-for-nothing wasteoid. The wasteoid, Johnny Devlin, woke up in Max's body too, and now, while Max is having to deal with the fact that Johnny's broke, getting evicted, and in a lot of trouble with his ex-girlfriend, Johnny's busily seeing how quickly he can run Max's life into the ground. The story focuses on Max rather than Johnny, though, and there's a sad beauty in seeing a good person try to deal with a bad hand that he incurred through no fault of his own. There's a much larger metaphor here too, in that a lot of people go through this sort of thing in real life, without any fantastical switching of brains, and also have to pick up the pieces. It made me consider the plight of the homeless in much more detail than I ever had before.

There's a lot more to the story, involving Max's teenage neighbor and her mom, Johnny's ex-girlfriend and her musician roommate, and of course, those De Lint mainstays Geordie Riddell and Jilly Coppercorn, who seem to show up in every book he writes (and thank god for that--they are both awesome characters). At the heart of it all, though, is the story of a man who has to figure out who he really is despite losing all outward signs of being that person. De Lint keeps you interested, makes you care--sometimes even about characters that shouldn't be sympathetic at all--and provides some insight about people and how they interact, insight that's well worth taking in and remembering. "Trader" is well worth your time.
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10/31/2009 page 237

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