So all of the usual suspects – The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, the Booker People – thought this book was The Shit. And so I feel a bit like an inept, ignorant reader to say this, but I thought it was just okay. And maybe not even that.
The premise (and yes, this is a book that has a premise) is man is sitting on his couch, a woman walks in his door that looks identical to his wife but is NOT his wife. So begins the journey through the book to find his “real” wife with all the attendant thematic questions that I’m sure you’ve already thought of: do we change as people over time? what is our real self? how do we ever know (ourselves) one another? can we ever pin point identity? The thematic complication is the overlay of weather patterns and weather predictions as the parallel to the search for self – just as we cannot predict the weather, we cannot predict the behaviour of selves. And the plot complication is that our protagonist is simultaneously searching for a lost psychiatric patient who believes he occupies two times and works for the weather agency. Right-o – this doppleganer foil of our protagonist shows us the insanity of trying to fix identity or relationships.
When I write this I realize that it does not seem (at all) obvious or matter the fact. Rather, it reads as terribly creative and exciting. And it is! For the first fifty pages. But there’s only so much surface wit and self-congratulatory whimsy that one reader can take. I would have been delighted with this as a novella or short story, or as a novel if it had a serious edit to include something deeper or more complicated than the gimmicky plot. But as it is, I feel a bit like maybe I missed something and didn’t get something that the Serious Reviewers did. If only I was a better reader? No, scratch that. This book just isn’t as good as I might want it to be. And it isn’t as good as the Serious Reviewers want it to be. And that’s a shame, but the truth.