Friday, August 6, 2010

The Imperfectionists

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 Ink Blots

For some reason Tom Rachman's novel reminded me of Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. I think it's because both books are written in vignettes that don't seem to fit together until the very end. While Cather's book is a little more obscure, Rachman's definitely is a little easier to grasp.

Honestly, when I first started reading this book I did not think I'd make it to the end. It starts out with Lloyd who is a writer for the international newspaper based in Rome. His story is just depressing. His wife is openly cheating on him and he won't leave her, the paper doesn't want any of his writings, he's washed up and aging but not old enough to quit his job and retire, and his kids are distant from him. I just kept thinking that if this is how the book starts and it's a downer I don't want to know how it ends. Usually it can only get worse from there.

And it does. But it's not a bad thing. Each character gets a spotlight. All of them have the paper in common but they also have another thing in common: loneliness. It is actually delightful to read because they are all so easy to relate to because loneliness is something we all feel at some point. Each of them struggles with a different kind of loneliness or a need to be accepted. Walter Cheung's story gets frustrating because he is manipulated by another writer and you just want to smack both the manipulator and Walter for all of it, but then you realize that "Wow, this is a good writer that can bring this frustration to life in his reader." At least that's what I thought. Sometimes I get so mechanical when I read. But ultimately I kept feeling for these characters and it surprised me.

The ending, however, is a little disappointing, but I don't see any other way for it to have ended. This is a great study on the human circumstance and experience. I highly recommend it. If you want to read (and you're close by me) I will gladly lend it to anyone interested. Otherwise, go to the library or your nearest bookstore and get it quick! I give it 4 and 1/2 inkblots out of 5.

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