When I got back from Cancun I found JP Licks perched like a statue on the front steps of the house. Staring straight ahead. My approach had been announced in an ongoing fashion by the sound of plastic wheels on pavement. Slowly increasing in volume like the arrival of Bad News. On an otherwise silent road– Lincoln, a through-street during the day, is cavernous at night. Bad News was carrying a backpack and a camera bag and dragging two suitcases (a small one filled with summer clothes, and a big one filled with winter clothes)– looked up and saw standing between her and a big green bed a few steps to the front door and a cat on a stoop.
On the back cover, it had said, “A novel of real ambition must invent its own language, and this one does.” If I could even hope to write like Arundhati Roy it would be a good day. Nevertheless I thought it fun to do book review entries in imitation of the book. The intro is in imitation of the style of The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. But actually, I’m cheating because INFPs and INFPs write alike to begin with.
On my way back to Santa Cruz I spent some time with John in San Mateo. John accused me of not using his name enough. I said I wished it were more complex. He freed me finally from the all-inclusive resort wrist band that had been strangling me all week. With the sharp end of a key.
Back at the front door and the steps on Lincoln Street, JP Licks stretched her paws, muttered a greeting, then turned and followed me into the dark house.
“Sophie Mol?” she whispered to the rushing river. “We’re here! Here! Near the illimba tree!”
On Rahel’s heart Pappachi’s moth snapped open its somber wings.
And lifted its legs.
They ran along the bank calling out to her. But she was gone. Carried away on the muffled highway. Graygreen. With fish in it. With the sky and trees in it. And at night the broken yellow moon in it.
There was no storm music. No whirlpool spun up from the inky depths of the Meenachal. No shark supervised the tragedy.
Just a quiet handing-over ceremony. A boat spilling its cargo. A river accepting the offering. One small life. A brief sunbeam. With a silver thimble clenched for luck in its little fist.
I finished the book on the broken up, 8-hour plane trip to Mexico. If I could give any piece of advice on how to read this book, it would be: don’t read it during the second leg of an 8-hour long plane ride anywhere. It’s been a while since I last read a book where the language plays such a intimate and central role in the experience of the story. The story itself, is simple. It is a single event, told in a nonlinear fashion. Before and after. Things can change in a day. The rest is the why.
I can’t help but admire the skill with which the story is told. The richness of the detail. The precise incision of imagination. With such a deep engagement of emotion, empathy, that a single event is able to be told with the fullness of a lifetime– several lifetimes– that it first fills the pages of a 300 page novel and then overflows it.
Some things come with their own punishments. Like bedrooms with built-in cupboards. They would all learn more about punishments soon. That they came in different sizes. That some were so big they were like cupboards with built-in bedrooms. You could spend your whole life in them, wandering through dark shelving.
I’ve been rather unimpressed by some books lately, but this one, I think, is a work of art.
On the station platform Rahel doubled over and screamed and screamed.
The train pulled out. The light pulled in.