Friday, February 23, 2007

The Inhabited World by David Long

I feel that I should explain that I don't do traditional book reviews. I do book recommendations more than anything else. I rarely quote the book in question, and I don't give away major plot points, preferring just give a general idea of to expect when reading the book.

When I joined the NYT Notable Book Challenge, I posted the ones I wanted to read here. I was then asked by the author of one of the unchosen books if I would consider reading his. I happily agreed. Here is the bulk of the review I posted on my blog...

The Inhabited World by David Long

The main character, Evan, has committed suicide but is still existing in his house, unable to leave it or to communicate with the people who have moved in and out of it in the 10 years since his death. He also doesn't quite know
why he shot himself, which is the crux of the story.

A young woman who is trying to break off a relationship she's having with a married man, moves into Evan's house, and the novel weaves in and out through her trials and Evan's back story.

I thought it was great how the author shows us how different people will react to life's difficulties. What might lead one person to end it all, will cause another to become stronger.

A couple of times, I was confused because Evan would reminisce about his marriages (both to the same woman) and at first, I wouldn't know if he was referring to marriage #1 or marriage #2, but I quickly figured out where we were and continued on my way.

I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it to everyone. And I'd like to thank David Long for encouraging me to read his excellent novel. I'm definitely going to take the time to read his other books now.

Update: Mr. Long left this message after my review that I feel is important to any discussion of this novel.

"I remember in the background of one of the last Beatles songs on Let It Be, John is heard to say something like: I hope we passed the audition . . . That's how I felt having laid the bloody book at your feet, so to speak. In any case, I'm relieved.

Wanted to say that I was very much taken by the film WINGS OF DESIRE [Wim Wenders], which centers on a pair of angels in the city of Berlin, one of whom longs for the physicality of the world so much that he renounces his status as angel and is returned to earth. The first thing he does--it's a cold evening--is to buy a coffee from a street vendor and wrap his hands around the cup to feel the warmth. A great moment. But there's another scene I found really moving: many of the angels hang about the library at night--they stand beside people as they read, and sometimes the reader will pause for a moment and look around as if they almost sensed something, but then go back to their reading. Sometimes the angel might touch them on the shoulder in a comforting way.

A close reading of the novel will show that the word "ghost" never appears--and I wanted to steer clear of as many of the common elements of "ghost" fiction as I possibly could--no scaring the living, that sort of thing. So you could rather think of it as a story about someone in a state of limbo, trying to understand things, and trying to act, insofar as he can, as a guardian angel."

It is interesting that the author thinks of Evan as an angel rather than a ghost, considering Evan states repeatedly that he doesn't really subscribe to any particular religious belief, even after his death.


Wendy said...

I love this kind of input from the author! This makes me want to read the book even more :)

Literary Feline said...

I admit that this one is on my list because of you, Kookiejar.:-) I am looking forward to reading it.

kookiejar said...

Can't wait to hear everyone's thoughts on it. The author certainly seems like a nice man, who was very generous to share his thoughts with me and my readers, and I hope we can get him to come over here and help us get a better understanding of his fine novel.