The Book Itself: As this book isn’t out until February, I can only give you my opinions on the ebook cover art (otherwise I could give you insight into jacket material or endpage art or page quality, etc.) The sad tree lady makes sense in the context of a certain character. The art is pretty, the integration of the words interesting. I like the pastel colors, too!
My Review: Mrs Featherby had been having pleasant dreams until she woke to discover the front of her house had vanished overnight …
On a seemingly normal morning in London, a group of people all lose something dear to them, something dear but peculiar: the front of their house, their piano keys, their sense of direction, their place of work.
Meanwhile, Jake, a young boy whose father brings him to London following his mother’s sudden death in an earthquake, finds himself strangely attracted to other people’s lost things. But little does he realise that his most valuable possession, his relationship with his dad, is slipping away from him.
If you took any kind of English class in college (probably not the Medieval ones, I’m thinking Modern Novel or something), you have probably heard the term “Magical Realism.” And you have probably read something that was three parts confusing, one part words that made a little sense.
I have learned to take magical realism with a bunch of grains of salt. And they are not all created equal. I feel like some authors make a convoluted story, slap a bunch of magical, weird things in there and go “look! I made a magical realism!”
This book came highly recommended from a former coworker of mine (actually a manager from the bookstore who has gone on to manage a different bookstore). She gushed about it, so I looked into getting an ARC and managed to snag an electronic copy.
Boy howdy was this magical realism. But at least it had a strong backbone of actual fiction and character story, so I’ll give it a break there.
My issues with magical realism aren’t the fantasy of it – I love sci-fi/fantasy! Half the books I review here are from that genre! But the logic of it…or lack thereof. Magical realism plops magic into a regular world, and then doesn’t explain its origins or even it’s conclusion. In Of Things Gone Astray, you never learn why or how people lose these things (front walls of houses, piano keys, relationship to your father, relationship to your son, your sense of direction, etc.) And for a lot of people here, how they ultimately deal with the lost thing isn’t included. They lose a thing, they mourn…and that’s it. And most people don’t even end up happy! It’s like in the movie Love Actually, where half those British people don’t get what they want or deserve, and you’re like “This is supposed to be a happy Christmas movie?!”
When I touched base with the person who recommended it, she pointed out that half the fun was figuring out what was purely symbolism (let’s just say one person slowly turns into a tree…), and what was literally meant.”Oh, I took that to mean he/she was in a mental institution,” and “Oh, he definitely had Alzheimer’s” our Facebook messages flew. So these people’s losses represent something greater in each of them. I got that they probably symbolized something, but I wasn’t reading it as if each lost thing were literally another situation entirely. Make sense?
Of course not.
So while I’m still wrapping my brain around magical realism (and heck, I have a degree in English Literature), this book did keep me gripped. Even though there weren’t explanations, even conclusions to some stories, the characters had nice growth, their stories of loss eliciting a range of emotions: sadness and heartbreak as well as joy and fun (Peter’s conversations with his precocious daughter are completely adorable).
So read it, but try not to analyze it like I do. It’ll itch your brain 😉
My Grade: B
Reminds me a little of…
The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
An entire town of women magically lose their libidos when the school puts on Lysistrata (the play about women withholding sex).