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The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy
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it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, humanity-culture, relations, spirit, europe, wwii, my-perennials, history, novels-that-haunt-me

I read this book in one sitting -- four hours -- and already have begun to read it again. I wept -- not at the end, as we tend to do ... but several times during the middle, and through the last third. The moral force of this story -- these stories, so interlinked -- drove me from bed at 3:20 a.m. to write something in its honour.

I have read a great deal about World War II ... but never something like this. Contemporary events occur in the story (2010 is the latest date), but WWII is its marrow. I was driven out of bed by the goodness. By knowing that my two truest godparents, the mentors who forged my soul indelibly with the force of goodness, were saved as youngsters in Europe during the War by crack-decisions that others made to save them ... and that these two people ended up in my country, my presence, many years later ... and that they saved me. Our stories are intertwined with the goodness that they infused me, and countless other people, with. They were relentless in their heroism because of what they survived, how they survived it, and how they chose to emerge from survival

World War II was such a singular event -- I can think of no other war in which so many "ordinary" people galvanized their goodness and grit to staunch, however they could, the vile derangement of one man: Adolf Hitler. My godfather -- Poppa -- joined an underground resistance movement in Austria when he was nine years old; my godmother -- Baka -- raised her younger siblings in Yugoslavia, staving off starvation by foraging at night for whatever food she could steal or dig up from ground already shorn of nourishment.

Goodness, I realized through reading The Illusion of Separateness, is a force. In circumstances of desperation, goodness strikes like lightning; it charges a person to act in an instant for the good of another life. The most quotidian of persons harbour stories of lives they've altered in those instants; lives they have saved and convicted with the indelible moral force of good.

January 12, 2015 -- Just finished a second read, and flipped right back to page one after the end. If you read this book, read the first chapter again ...


"My love for you will always be stronger than any truth."

The truth is closer than thought and lies buried in what we already know.

... He was alone, but for the echo of that other heart. / The absence later would require a God.

He assumes the best because he knows so little.

Play is where he recognizes himself.

... we are all defined by something we can't change.

He formed a ladder with the syllables of his wife's name.

And life kept going ... kept dragging me along in its teeth.

A. once had a pet rabbit. It was called Felix and used to follow him in the fields beyond the cottage. A used to lie on his back and Felix would sniff him and A would giggle. One night over dinner, A's father couldn't stop laughing. After watching his son eat a second helping of stew, he told him to go check on Felix.

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Quotes Lexie Liked

Simon Van Booy
“When he smiles, they mostly look away. But Martin likes to think they carry his smile for a few blocks – that even the smallest gesture is something grand.”
Simon Van Booy, The Illusion of Separateness

Simon Van Booy
“Love is also a violence, and cannot be undone.”
Simon Van Booy, The Illusion of Separateness

Simon Van Booy
“I think people would be happier if they admitted things more often. In a sense we are all prisoners of some memory, or fear, or disappointment - we are all defined by something we can’t change.”
Simon Van Booy, The Illusion of Separateness

Simon Van Booy
“Every day is a masterpiece, even if it crushes you.”
Simon Van Booy, The Illusion of Separateness

Reading Progress

June 15, 2013 – Shelved
June 15, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
June 15, 2013 – Shelved as: fiction
June 15, 2013 – Shelved as: humanity-culture
January 15, 2014 – Started Reading
January 15, 2014 – Shelved as: relations
January 15, 2014 – Shelved as: spirit
January 16, 2014 – Shelved as: europe
January 16, 2014 – Shelved as: wwii
January 16, 2014 – Shelved as: my-perennials
January 16, 2014 – Shelved as: history
January 12, 2016 – Finished Reading
November 1, 2016 – Shelved as: novels-that-haunt-me

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