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The Last Illusion

3.44  ·  Rating Details ·  660 Ratings  ·  120 Reviews
From the critically acclaimed author of Sons and Other Flammable Objects comes a bold fabulist novel about a feral boy coming of age in New York, based on a legend from the medieval Persian epic The Shahnameh, the Book of Kings.

In a rural Iranian village, Zal’s demented mother, horrified by the pallor of his skin and hair, becomes convinced she has given birth to a “White
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2014)
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don presnell the editions shown before of them unless this is batman it sucks

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Lolly K Dandeneau
Feb 24, 2014 Lolly K Dandeneau rated it it was amazing
This novel is far more than it's summary. It is a beautiful tangle of myth, love, magic, and illusion giving the reader one wonderful story. Zal begins his life in a cage, after his mother (horrified by his pale skin and hair) treats him like a bird. He is 'rescued' by his sister only to later come into the care of an adoptive American father and so begins the quest of normalcy for our feral little man. His dreaming in bird is inventively creative and Zal's struggle to be 'like the rest of us' i ...more
May 29, 2014 Edan rated it really liked it
I read this book in two days while at Ucross, an artists' residency in beautiful northeast Wyoming. This was the perfect setting to read this novel because, 1. The author may have written parts of it in the very same studio I was reading/writing in, which felt magical and impossible-possible in a way that echoed the book's magical yet realistic tone and premise. And, 2. Because I had hours to do with what I wanted, and what I wanted was to write for a couple of hours, and then read for a couple ...more
Jul 10, 2015 Holly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The Last Illusion may be one of the most frustrating, incomprehensible books I've ever read. The first half is written in an awkward, stilted, and detached writing style that keeps the reader at an unmanageable distance from the characters. This isn't a criticism; I actually enjoyed the mythical style once I thought I had figured out what Khakpour was doing. But suddenly, the second half switched to an overwrought, occasionally-experimental, emotional writing style that mistakenly assumed the re ...more
Amy (shoutame)
Aug 25, 2016 Amy (shoutame) rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
This was nothing like I imagined it to be. Definitely one of the most disappointing reads of the year so far.

This book follows a young Iranian boy who has been kept in a birdcage by his mother. At the beginning of the novel he is rescued from his ten-year long prison and taken from Iran to New York where he is adopted by a behavioural analyst. We then see his VERY speedy recovery - some how he manages to reclaim his posture, speech and can function pretty well in human company. The book then det
Jan 09, 2015 Kathleen rated it it was ok
This is a highly symbolic work about two very damaged people: Zal, a boy whose mentally ill mother profoundly neglected him and raised him among birds, and Asiya, another abandoned child, who suffers from frequent panic attacks and has very specific visions about the 9/11 attacks in New York. Before they happen. Together, Zal and Asiya try to be "normal" young adults, with limited success.

I found The Last Illusion to be well-done, even funny in parts, and I could tell the author was accomplishe
Madhu R
Nov 26, 2015 Madhu R rated it did not like it
So heavy handed and repetitive. This concept was original and started out really well, but took a bad turn. I got so tired of reading about the mundane lives of the lead characters midway through, despite their quirks and insecurities. Even worse was how the author kept alluding to 9/11 in such a cloying and irritating way. She'd say things like"the year after 2010 was 3/4ths complete" or "August had just passed". Those weren't direct quotes, but there are some equally terrible ones throughout t ...more
Jul 06, 2014 Jill rated it liked it
More like 3.5 stars. The book started out strong, but lost me toward the end. The author tries to make a strong tie to 9/11 but it was too overblown and symbolic for me. The main characters, Zal and Asiya, are strange outcasts who find comfort in one another, and I liked that. I believe their relationship, but their circumstances and lives felt too strange and labored. An interesting read, but ultimately not satisfying.
Ksenia Anske
Aug 12, 2014 Ksenia Anske rated it it was amazing
Could a boy be a bird? Could a bird be a boy? Could a boy be raised by birds? Or by his own mother, stuck in a cage, with no place to move and no sound to utter and no embrace to receive, hailed as the White Demon? Could a Persian myth be a story played out in New York of 2001? The 2001? That awful September month? That day, the 11th? It could. And it could rivet you to your seat, or to the floor, or to the wall, or wherever it is you would be reading this book, perhaps perched on the edge of yo ...more
Mar 17, 2014 Owen rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, notable
Zal was raised as a bird, but he isn't really a bird. He is a boy, but only in the physical sense. Trapped in a cage for the first ten years of his life by an abusive mother for having light skin, his siblings were the other caged birds, from whom he learned how to be a bird. When he is eventually released, a team of developmental psychologists and scientists specializing in feral children help him learn normal human ways. From there, he has to master the world like anyone else.
Along the way he
I wasn't as enamored by this book as I'd hoped to be. I'm not sure why. It has so many things that I normally would adore in books. It has a good magical realist premise, more realist than magical. It has an earnest but fallible protagonist, Zal, with an incredible back story. It's a great coming of age novel set against the backdrop of the years preceding 9/11. It has a troubled love story where both participants aren't totally sold on the epic-ness of their entanglement. Zal actually has an on ...more
Oct 04, 2014 Julie rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2014-challenge
Found this book somewhat "out there". Didn't like the fact that the author chose an event of such magnitude to construct her story around. She seemed to have made light of the fact that the event had even happened and at such an horrific rate of death. I might be a bit blind here, but this didn't appeal to me at all really - I've given it one star just to say I've read it. Not my cup of tea.
Bloomsbury Publishing
Mar 19, 2014 Bloomsbury Publishing rated it it was amazing
From the critically acclaimed authors of "Sons and Other Flammable Objects" comes a bold fabulist novel about a feral boy coming of age in New York, based on the legend from the medieval Persian epic The Shahnameh, the Book of Kings.
Feb 10, 2015 jo rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychic-pain, 9-11, trauma
this book is fantastic. i feel i should start from the beginning and read the whole thing again.
Jun 28, 2016 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
4.5-5/5stars | Favorite Standalone

Trigger Warnings: discussion of rape, portrayal of panic attacks, use of vulgar homosexual slurs, eating disorders

This was fuckin' fantastic, baby! (as Bran Silber would say... or Big Bang, depending on how you look at it.)

I was hoping I would love this book, going into it, but it absolutely blew me away. This story was so incredibly unique, gripping, sort of beautiful, and horrific. In this story we follow a feral child named Zal, who was born as an albino in
May 23, 2014 Maxine rated it really liked it
Zal is born in Iran with extremely pale skin and light coloured hair. His mother is convinced she has given birth to a ‘white demon’ and puts him in a cage where she raises him along with her menagerie of birds. He is finally rescued as a young adolescent by his sister and subsequently adopted by a behavioural analyst who takes him to New York. Zal tries to appear normal but he can’t escape his upbringing completely; he dreams of flying and hides his secret stash of candied insects from his adop ...more
Zal’s beginnings are truly bizarre—being raised as a bird when you’re a growing human being will do that for you. The efforts to rehabilitate him and get him to function as a human being are interesting, too, if swiftly glossed over by the author.

However, once he’s free of his cage, the fun begins—or not. Zal can’t laugh or smile, a situation supposedly common to many feral children. But Zal’s efforts to be normal lead him down many twisted paths. Normalcy is a nebulous target, like being “rich
Raven Haired Girl
Apr 29, 2015 Raven Haired Girl added it
Shelves: 2015
A feral boy coming of age in New York, based on a legend from the medieval Persian epic The Shahnameh, the Book of Kings.

Porochista Khakpour certainly crafts quite a yarn. Her prose flows with fluidity, it’s magical in its own right. Imaginative, creative and downright beautiful.

A patchwork of characters leaving you questioning this amazing tale, but somehow through the gorgeous and ugly wreckage Khakpour fuses a bird boy, a clairvoyant and a illusionist made of smoke and mirrors and I’m barely
Jan 19, 2016 Lisa rated it liked it
Shelves: usa, c21st, 14review
The Last Illusion is a rather exotic novel: it’s a strange melange of magic and realism, and although it’s set in New York, its defining myth comes from Iranian legend. The characters are all outsiders, and the central character, a feral child, is incapable of that most basic of human feelings, love.

Bringing all these elements together is a risky endeavour for a novelist, but somehow Porochista Khakpour pulls it off with panache.

Shahnama (Persian Book of Kings)Derived from a legend from the medi
Jen Rickard Blair
Oct 25, 2015 Jen Rickard Blair rated it really liked it
This was a delightfully engaging read that was difficult to put down. Exploring the human experience through the earnest attempts of a feral child to be "normal" brought me to look at human actions and intentions with sympathetic, nonjudgemental eyes. The characters in this novel came from many uncommon or peculiar backgrounds, but Khakpour succeeded in creating believable characters filled with flaws and redeeming qualities. I loved Zal's father Hendricks the most, and I like how Khakpour revea ...more
Rebecca Schwarz
Jun 21, 2014 Rebecca Schwarz rated it liked it
A fascinating, if imperfect book. (Looking for perfection is a losing game anyway.) I loved the speculative and literary style of this story. The characters kept me reading through to the end. There is a lot to love in this story of a feral child growing up and trying to become a normal adult in New York City. I enjoyed it all the way through even if all the plot elements didn't entirely gel for me. In the end, the cohesiveness of the plot suffered from maybe just a few too many characters with ...more
Oct 24, 2015 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Last Illusion took me on a emotional rollercoaster as I watched these aching and deeply flawed characters flail about and harm one another as they tried to make sense of the world from their perspective of one. Reviewers have tried to turn this book into some kind of political statement. It is anything but that. It's a story that invites us to give our own quirks and flaws a deep examination and realize that those are the precise identifying features that makes us capable of loving and being ...more
Apr 30, 2015 Sheila rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own, 2015

Ugh. I'm really torn on this book. I really liked it in the beginning. The writing style is different and a little disjointed, but it worked for me. I like the modern spin on old mythology. But then about a third of the way through it just started to drag for me. I still liked the writing but it felt repetitive and I found the characters to be frustrating. Also I don't think the inclusion of 9/11 or the way it was portrayed was particularly well done.
Jun 25, 2014 Eric rated it liked it
Salman Rushdie is a worthy muse, but a difficult one to duplicate. Plus, he's well and writing. Khakpour bites off far more than her chops can chew: Persian myth, feral children, American culture and 9/11. Some of the parts are truly fine. But it does not really add up. Besides, Zal turns out to be far more conventional than one would expect from a feral child. The point, perhaps. But not much of one.
Jan 14, 2015 Neil rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-reads
I thought I was going to really like this, but I ultimately felt let down. The writing is strange, I think: it feels like it switches between an adult and a children's book with the way things are phrased. I was also rather unsettled by such a strange approach to a world changing event in which so many people died - this seemed to ignore all that and it felt to me like it trivialised it. Others may see it completely differently, of course. Oh, well.
Apr 07, 2014 Leticia rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I'm always a little hesitant on entering giveaways because you never quite know what you're in for, but I was quite pleased with this book. It's definitely not one of those happy and energetic stories, but still has those heartwarming moments. Zal's perspective of the world is quite interesting and sympathetic. If you're looking for a realistic book with wonderful qualities, then I recommend this book for you.
Apr 18, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it
The imagination, energy and scope of this novel are breathtaking. It's incredible to me that this expansive world was contained in one person. The narration, generous and grand, bursts from the pages and is a real treat to read. I found myself fascinated by the characters in this book--fraught and desperate and weird, but also so relatable, so human. An excellent read.
I uuuhhh don't even know where to go with this one. I had a really hard time reading most of it. Parts of it kept me totally glued but others I was like HUH...What...and was completely lost.Not really my kind of book.
Audacia Ray
Dec 14, 2014 Audacia Ray rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
First 3/4 of the book were great with compelling characters. Hated the end and the 9/11 tie-in that is foreshadowed throughout.
Meredith Summers
Sep 09, 2016 Meredith Summers rated it liked it
This book was extremely well written, but just not my cup of tea.
Oct 10, 2014 Bettie☯ marked it as maybe
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
Looks good. Watch the reviews and ratings/hunt down a deal
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Porochista Khakpour has been awarded fellowships from the NEA, John Hopkins, Northwestern, Yaddo, and Ucross. Her debut novel Sons and Other Flammable Objects was a New York Times "Editors Choice," one of Chicago Tribune "Fall's Best," and a 2007 California Book Award winner. Her nonfiction has appeared in Harper's, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, and Salon, among others. She has taught at John Hopk ...more
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