Sunday, May 21, 2017

Book Review: "Edgar and Lucy" by Victor Lodato

Edgar Allan Fini is an eight-year-old boy unlike any other. Because he suffers from albinism, his physical appearance is tremendously unique (a fact not quite appreciated by his bullying peers), but his heart and his mind are far more advanced in many ways than most kids his age. Since his father's death when he was a baby—an event no one speaks of—he lives with his mother, Lucy, and his beloved grandmother, Florence, with whom he has a special connection.

"Even those who loved you best were bound to find the flaws if they stared long enough. To lose his grandmother's favor would be the end of everything. Unlike his mother, whose light flashed on him only intermittently, like the beam of a lighthouse, the old woman was nothing less than the sun. The idea that she might think less of him filled the boy with shame."

Edgar has his secrets, but then again, so do Lucy and Florence. Lucy mourns for the passionate, troubled man who rescued her from a troubled childhood and loved her fiercely, yet she continues to be angry with him for leaving her alone with his mother and their infant son. She tries to fill her husband's absence with alcohol and destructive relationships with other men, yet she can't help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago when her husband needed her most. While she loves Edgar, she doesn't know how to deal with him, and is happy to defer his parenting to Florence, despite what she believes Florence thinks about her.

Florence, on the other hand, mourns for her lost son and tries to understand what happened to him and what role she played in his problems. She has pinned all of her hopes on Edgar, and loves the young boy with the force of her being, yet she wants to be sure he doesn't follow in his father's footsteps. She tries desperately to shelter him from the outside world, and from the mess she believes Lucy is making of her life and the memory of her son.

One day, feeling hurt, alone, confused, and angry, Edgar makes the decision to befriend a man with his own secrets and his own tragedy. It is a decision that impacts both his and Lucy's lives profoundly. Edgar must figure out what means the most to him, and what he truly wants, while Lucy must come to terms with her marriage, her husband's problems, her own childhood, and her relationship with her son.

I'm being fairly vague with my plot description because there are a lot of elements which are more powerful if you let them unfold rather than learn about them in advance.

Edgar and Lucy is a book a number of my Goodreads friends rated very highly and felt very passionate about, so despite my trying to tamp down my expectations, I had high hopes. This is a beautifully written book—seriously, Victor Lodato is a prose master, creating imagery and using language which truly took my breath away. It's very powerful emotionally, and Edgar and Florence's relationship made me a little teary. But despite the beauty of its storytelling, I liked, but didn't love the book.

I wished that the story was tighter, as I felt the plot dragged on longer than it needed to. After a while I just wanted the plot to resolve itself. There are elements of mysticism I didn't quite understand, and at times there were characters I felt were extraneous. I was thankful that Lodato didn't take the story down a path I feared, and I felt that there was so much going on at times that it diluted the powerful heart of the story. But maybe these are the quibbles of someone who expected too much—perhaps if you just go into this book knowing you'll be moved, you may enjoy it more than I did.

At its heart, Edgar and Lucy is a book about the beauty and pain which come with relationships and love of all kinds, and how painful it can be to be the one left behind. If you like beautiful writing, you'll be blown away. Heck, you may even cry.

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