Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Book Review: Familiar
4.5 Stars - Highly Recommended to fans of never-knowing-where-the-story-is-going who enjoy that through-the-looking-glass feeling
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Release Date: Today!!
What good is a second chance if you aren't going to take advantage of it?
In J. Robert Lennon's Familiar, Elisa finds herself driving home from her youngest son's grave when everything suddenly changes - her car is different, her clothes are different, her body is different. Pulling into the driveway, her husband comes out to greet her and even he appears different. Yet everything seems so... familiar.
She soon discovers that in this reality, she and her husband are struggling to stay together while both of her sons are alive, though estranged from them. Unsure whether she's slipped into a parallel universe or losing her mind, Elisa tries to acclimate herself to this new life as best as she can while attempting to make it as similar to her old life as possible.
Lennon's got a knack for fucking with my mind. I'm going to just put that right out there. When I had listened to Castle on audio, I tried like hell to guess where the story was going to end up. And every time I thought I had it nailed down, he threw another curve ball and left me standing in the dark, scratching my head. Things were no different with Familiar. As Lennon allowed Elisa to fall further and further into his rabbit-hole, I realized that I was less and less certain of what was taking place. Was Elisa really living in some mirror-version of her old life? If I found myself leaning that way, Lennon would do something that made me ask if she was suffering a nervous breakdown instead and losing touch with reality. Would she ever find her way back to the life she left behind, and did she even want to? As Elisa memories from the old life started to merge and blend with those of the new, and she began questioning her sanity... I decided to simply let the story take me where it wanted.
It's a book that means to get inside your head and nestle down in there, nice and cozy-like. The characters are deliciously flawed, the situations they put themselves in are sometimes maddeningly robotic, and with each turn of the page, you're forced to ask yourself "what if this were happening to me"....
Though Lennon gives good suspense, he continues to leave me aching for more with his endings. With Castle, I found it sort of frustrating. Now, with Familiar, I think I'm starting to see what he's up to. Why put a nice little bow on things when you can make the reader do a little post-read homework, right? In this way, the story doesn't end with the final sentence of the book. It continues to breathe and expand as you chew on it...