First thought: Wow.
Second thought: Wow, wow.
Additional thoughts: What a strange, odd, and beautifully, beautifully crafted book. It’s a father/daughter story like nothing I’ve ever read, about the people we fail, the love we can’t understand until it leaves us, the lives we choose and the lives that choose us.
There are so many extraordinary things about this book, I barely know where to begin. Schroder, the narrator, in writing a letter to his estranged wife, is a man preoccupied with pauses (you’ll have to read to understand), who analyzes the pauses of Pinter plays, who, in trying to understand silence, instead fills it with actual footnotes.
The story itself is a kind of footnote. It takes place inside the parentheses of an extended pause. It’s a road trip, and trips have a way of existing outside of the reality of our lives. They become a series of moments that are distinctly a part of us but don’t necessarily connect with the rest of the minutes and hours, and Schroder’s trip becomes all the more parenthetical because of its inevitable bitter end.
It’s also a book about walls, barriers, and divisions. These are often the catalysts for failed relationships but, in this book, Gaige also reminds us that they leave an indelible print on our identities. The Berlin Wall somehow manages to feature prominently and, at the same time, almost ghostly veiled, as the first division in Schroder’s life, a life that continues to divide like a cancerous cell as his story unfolds.
And I couldn’t help but be slightly reminded of another book that intrigued me, Shards by Ismet Prcic. These are two very (very) different books but both feature men who escape divided countries and live two lives. The very last line in Schroder made me aha (!) at their connection. (Don’t worry, I’m giving nothing away.)
I am covered in shards.
Also, I liked the writing. My favorite passage here:
I would stand there in the bathroom with white bits of deodorant caught in my underarm hair, penetrating my own nostril with the whirring pole of an electric nose-hair trimmer. You left a scene of camelia in your wake. I left tiny whiskers in mine. My footfalls were heavy. Yours were soundless. You could handle glass. I looked like an idiot holding a champagne flute, a real gorilla. I’m grateful, really, and also sad, that you were so beautiful.
The more I think about it, the more I like it. I hope you’ll read it.