Book Review: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

What a title! So egotistical, a bit narcissistic. Author is Dave Eggers, another new one for me. Picked this book up at Barnes & Noble when they were doing a buy-two-get-one-free type of thing (I’m always a sucker for cheap books).

Back to the book: It’s weird. The introduction thing is wordy and obscure, and I almost regretted my decision to buy the book. Fortunately, I’m stubborn and I plowed on – and now I’m glad I did.

The book has an angry backbone (since it’s ‘narrated’ by a young man who has recently lost both of his parents and is now acting as a guardian to his 9 year-old brother) but plenty of bittersweet moments to keep it from being one long rant.

The thing I like best is that the writing style is unusual, in that it’s almost a stream of consciousness type of thing; the main character goes on tangents where he imagines all sorts of horrible things happening, and the the story follows it word for word. It is like recording your own imagination as it runs away from you.

An example: at one point, the main character leaves his little brother with a babysitter so he can go out to a bar and just have a good time as a young man, to get a break from playing ‘dad.’ As soon as he starts driving away from the house he begins to imagine that the babysitter is really a pedophile, who is going to torture and maim the boy in all sorts of unspeakable ways, and when he gets home he’s going to find that the babysitter has either killed the boy or that the boy has instead triumphed over the wicked babysitter and is simply awaiting dinner. You know this kind of stuff runs through your own head, and it’s odd but refreshing to see it on paper. I guess it reassures me that other people have wild imaginations, too, and that most of the terrible things we envision never come to pass.

Summary: it’s a dark novel, but with the main character has a good heart and is doing the best he can given the circumstances. There is so much life and truth to the story, it’s believable. I feel for the characters, and to me that means the book is a winner.

About wonkydonkey

You want random? You got it. Mostly knitting and gardening, with some home improvements, pets, baking, family, and the occasional bad joke thrown in for good measure.
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