Recently I wrote about various books that I’d found comforting, and one of these was Long Bright River, part police procedural, part sister pain, with a healthy dollop of drugs and murder and family dysfunction. Not too challenging, I said, which I meant as high praise (and self-castigation—my concentration muscles are shot after a year of pandemic and political horror). But mere weeks later, I see this comment also as blithely condescending. Because, spurred by how good that books was, I asked my library what else they had, and they offered up The Unseen World. And I realized this writer, while being a joy to read, has majorly bigger fish to fry than just that.
This book is so…lovely. And strange. And sad. But no matter how sad (and I have been struggling with sad this year), it is also engaging and compelling and alive.
The liveliness comes because of all the love—not so much directly, but as though the whole novel is built over a huge underground store of love, like a hidden spring that keeps welling up. Does that sound sappy? It’s not sappy, the writing is loath to touch the love directly, but it suffuses everything, making it possible, for me at least, to read without falling apart.
Remember how everyone was flipping out about trigger warnings? (Maybe they still are?) A few of those are wanted for all of us who are more fragile now than we might “normally” be (which makes me think they are always wanted), but not for self-destructive behavior exactly, more for heartbreak, which we’re not all able to stand right now: book covers the pain of dementia, misfits, loneliness.
The very end is…not what I needed. But maybe we can talk about that when/if you read the book.