This is a postmodern tale if I’ve ever read one. For the first hundred pages or so, I wrestled with whether or not this ludicrous story was true. The author indicates as much in his preface, but slowly I came to see even that as part of “the story.” The story is not true, as in it happened in time, but it strives to be true in its description of reality, story, and God as we understand them through our lenses of interpretation.
I won’t give any of the plot away, so all I’ll say is this is a crazy story. Martel writes with vividly descriptive prose that lets you feel like you are right there in the midst of the story with your protagonist. I enjoyed reading the book, and I found it hard to put down. However, as far as fiction books go, I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend this one. It’s entertaining to be sure, and it’s even clever. However, I was left feeling a little bit empty and unsatisfied at the end. It neither satisfied me with a greater depth understanding about things or left me longing for deeper discussion with others who had read the book. I enjoyed it, but I just didn’t take that much away from it. It was brain candy. Fun to read, but not lastingly rewarding.
My response may be in part due to the genre of this book. I prefer historical fiction to this sort of fantasy fiction. I like reading a book that places me in the past and stretches my imagination as I think about what life was like long ago, rather than a book that places me in another imaginary (and unreal?) world. I find that understanding the world we live in (seeing things from others point of view, whether in distant cultures or distant times) is already a great challenge to the imagination, and a book that strives towards that goal is the fiction I prefer.
Nonetheless, this was still a good book. For the short while I was reading it, I found myself thinking about the book constantly. Its story was repeatedly circling through my head. It’s a fun read, and it has a message about interpretation, reality, stories and God…but mostly it’s just a fun read.