Friday, June 14, 2013

Book Review: "The Illusion of Separateness" by Simon Van Booy

Simon Van Booy's new novel, The Illusion of Separateness, is a beautifully written, poetic book about connections, how we don't realize just how connected we are, but connections between us and others exist without our even knowing it. It's more a collection of interwoven stories than a full-fledged novel in terms of narrative, but the characters are connected in both definitive and fleeting ways.

"We all have different lives...but in the end probably feel the same things, and regret the fear we thought might somehow sustain us."

So says Martin, who in his vignette is an elderly caretaker at an assisted living/nursing home-type facility. And this quote truly embodies the very nature of this book, as Martin's story, which is more than meets the eye, is amazingly (but not unbelievably) connected to those of other characters—a deformed man who was a former German soldier during World War II, a blind museum curator, a lonely British film director, and a pair of newlyweds about to be separated by war.

Van Booy does a a masterful job teasing out the connections and giving depth and complexity to his characters. I honestly could read a book with most of these as the anchor; that's how well their stories were developed in such a short amount of time. And the connections between and among them made me smile, made me wonder, even made me choke up.

I was a huge fan of Van Booy's story collection, Love Begins in Winter, which was one of my favorite books in 2009. (I wasn't as much of a fan of his novel, Everything Beautiful Happens After, although it was well-written.) His use of language and imagery are absolutely beautiful and his storytelling ability is so emotionally evocative. While the plot may not be as cohesive as a traditional novel, it didn't matter to me.

If you're a fan of beautiful writing, read this book. Simon Van Booy's voice is one worth hearing.

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