Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Amnesiac

I've read two books this last week that completely rocked my world. The first, The Amnesiac by Sam Taylor is reviewed below. The plot was so dense and utterly enthralling that the next two books I tried to read I ended up returning to the library in disgust. The second, The Shack by William P. Young, has become a smash and is on the New York Times bestseller's list, and deservedly so. After finishing it, I didn't want to touch another book, because nothing else could have the powerful message it had. I love finding books that really impact me. I read so many books, and after a few months, most of the time I've completely forgotten the plot, sometimes it happens within a matter of weeks or days. But every now and then I encounter a book that changes the way I view the world irrevocably. To me, that is the definition of a great book.

The Amnesiac by Sam Taylor is the story of James Purdew, a 30-year-old Englishman living in Amsterdam, who after breaking his ankle decides to write the story of his life in order to try and capture three years that are missing from his memory. But as he probes those missing years, pieces of his life gradually start to slip away: his girlfriend, job, apartment, and eventually his own idea of self. The tighter James tries to cling to world he knows, the less real it seems to be. Packed with stories within stories, this multi-layered story evokes Sartre's Nausea. Warning: reading this book can seriously mess you up! Turn off the TV, find a comfy chair, and retreat from the world to completely immerse yourself in this debut novel. What is the nature of memory? How much of what we remember is truly accurate or is it a construction of stories, pictures, and daydreaming? And if we lose part of our memories, do we lose a part of ourselves? Does it change who we are? Does memory mark us indelibly? Taylor asks all of these questions and more about the nature of hope and fear. Hope is fear unrealized, and fear is hope unrealized. They are opposite sides of the same coin. James is a tragic character of his own creation who is too afraid to face his own past giving him no future; his fear keeps him from hope. A novel like this is a precarious thing. If the author doesn't balance things just so and create a flawless ending, the entire book collapses upon itself. But Taylor writes this slippery, illusory novel with panache, and the ending (which I read twice) is perfect. This book was so good, it was difficult to pick up another book after it. I am spoiled by reading a book that so utterly engaged my mind.

Tonight we are having a little party with Jesse's cousins. Seven adults and two kids for brats and board games. I'm really looking forward to it!