by Samanta Schweblin
Genres: Fiction / Literary / Horror
“You’re confused, and that’s not good for this story. I’m a normal boy.”
“This isn’t normal, David. There’s only darkness, and you’re talking into my ear. I don’t even know if this is really happening.”
“It’s happening, Amanda. I’m kneeling at the edge of your bed, in one of the rooms at the emergency clinic. We don’t have much time, and before time runs out we have to find the exact moment.”
Amanda lies in a clinic, talking to the young David. What transpires between them is confounding, eerie, and unsettling. As they, and you, try to put the pieces together, they speak of grief, the family bond, and secrets. And they relive their mutual experience in an effort to find the key to it all – where they are, what they’re doing there, who David is, and what has happened to Amanda.
I heard a couple of early reviews of this book, which seemed to be unable to go into specifics about the plot but emphasised just how strange the book was. I had to check it out for myself.
Strange doesn’t quite do it justice. This is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. At 183 pages long, I read it in one sitting, and if you’re going to read it too I suggest you do the same. It’s at its most powerful that way. Don’t look up from the page or you’ll break the spell.
Just like other reviewers before me, I don’t feel like I can talk about specifics either, and I still don’t quite know what it was about or exactly what happened. The only way I can describe it is by saying that our two main characters are searching for answers about the things that have happened to them, but their conversation doesn’t really make any sense. Certain details do seem to connect to each other and this connection becomes apparent as you go along, however their meaning is unclear.
But I enjoyed the experience. And that’s exactly what this book feels like, it’s not just a book, not just a story….it’s an experience. By the end I felt like I’d been on some kind of time-travelling acid trip, following the stream of consciousness recollections of the protagonist, Amanda, whose discussion with creepy David almost seemed like as if she were under hypnosis. I don’t recall a book ever making me feel the way this one did. It was so weird, and unsettling, and confounding.
I know how I’m describing it probably makes it sound awful, but I loved it. I just couldn’t put it down, from the first page I wanted to know what was coming next and where it was leading. I don’t how Samanta Schweblin (and translator Megan McDowell) has done what she’s done here, I can’t help but feel like maybe she knows some great secret that we don’t.
If you’re not into totally bizarre books that make you think “WTF?”, then steer clear because you’ll probably end up throwing it at the wall. But if, like me, that’s your bag, then you need to pick this one up because it will rock your world.
Did not like it – It was ok – Liked it – Really liked it – It was amazing