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302 pages, Hardcover
First published March 24, 2020
“There are so many ways to haunt a person, or a life.”There is something undeniably magical about this story. It is strange, a bit surreal and dreamlike and sometimes even slightly disorienting. And it takes a while for you to resurface from its emotional weight that somehow creeps up upon you when you really don’t expect it.
“It is possible to leave so much out of any given story.”It is a story about people and the connections that form between them, the strange ways their lives touch, intersect and overlap briefly, causing unexpected ripples on otherwise smooth surfaces, only to diverge again and then maybe converge in a new pattern, for better or worse. It is about the strange directions that lives can take - or not take, the lives lived and unlived and wished for, the alternate realities which can haunt you relentlessly.
This book does not have a conventional plot. It’s like it’s made of vignettes that eventually come together and form a larger story, come to a greater whole. It made me think of those five-minute videos that Vincent obsessively takes - short but vivid glimpses into life, open-ended and with little resolution - like shards of the universes that we inhabit.
“No, money is a country and he had the keys to the kingdom.”Nobody in this book is perfect. Everyone is messy and pathetic and frequently awful - and so very human. Emily St John Mandel clearly *gets* people, sees them in their complexity and is able to bring them to life so skillfully, with so much nuance and understanding that it’s a pleasure to read.
“I’m paying a price for this life, she told herself, but the price is reasonable.”Despite what the book description made me think, you really don’t need to know anything about how Ponzi schemes work. All that’s important here is that it is a giant fraud that can make people feel good for a while with the windfall of unearned cash, and then it eventually collapses, destroying lives by stripping people of everything they thought they had. The coveted “country of money“ can quickly become the “shadowland” of those fallen through the cracks.
“It wasn’t the stuff that kept her in this strange new life, in the kingdom of money; it wasn’t the clothing and objects and handbags and shoes. It wasn’t the beautiful home, the travel; it wasn’t Jonathan’s company, although she did genuinely like him; it wasn’t even inertia. What kept her in the kingdom was the previously unimaginable condition of not having to think about money, because that’s what money gives you: the freedom to stop thinking about money. If you’ve never been without, then you won’t understand the profundity of this, how absolutely this changes your life.”Beautiful book. Loved it. 4.5 stars.