June, 15 2015
There’s something very alive and vivid about this set of messed-up characters. Randy as a narrator is, necessarily, almost completely unreliable, as he is bullied and tormented by a figure in his mind called Yeval, who Randy describes as being created by his own guilt over the death of his mother.
Randy’s voice jerks and despairs as his reality becomes less and less stable over the course of the novel. This lends a suspenseful and unpredictable mood to it. The angry eruptions of the narrative voice make the reading experience feel dangerous but quick-moving. At times I felt I needed a less chaotic way through, from one event to the next, but I appreciated the author’s commitment to the scattered, often terrifying, movement of his main character’s psyche.
Some of this story is deeply unsettling, and that’s a necessary evil of its subject matter, but I was impressed with how tender and warm the narrative was able to get between the angrier episodes. Randy’s brother, the love of his life Caroline, and his late mother are all at various times conjured with extreme affection. I think this aspect of the novel is almost the most important; it’s the humanity and sympathy of these sections that propels the reader on, and inspires her to seek to understand even the most obscene sections of Randy’s interior monologue.
The writing is best when it doesn’t over explain itself. Moments of profound emotional resonance are possible when the narrator speaks simply and honestly, and when repetition is avoided. ‘“I’m with somebody,” I respond. It feels like a confession,’ Randy tells us when he is reunited with his beloved ex-girlfriend Caroline. Lines like this give us a simple insight into the moment-by-moment emotional journey of this character that is helpful when trying to negotiate his unpredictable actions.
The structure of the novel overall is well-paced, and leads the reader deeper and deeper into the internal danger of Randy’s mind. Just as the mystery of Slayer and Yeval seems to be unwinding, it obscures and convolutes again, and we are left with an indistinct and upsetting ending, but one that feels fitting for this story.
In short, not a comfortable read, but interesting, and highly thought-provoking, with moments of really moving writing.
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