Saturday, November 7, 2015

Book Review: "The Lesson" by Jesse Ball

Sometimes a book clicks for you and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you devour a book and sometimes you can't seem to make headway and just want the whole thing to end. Sadly, it was the latter for me where Jesse Ball's "The Lesson" was concerned. I was intrigued by the concept of this 137-page novella, but the story never engaged me, and I'll admit that I struggled to really understand the point of it all.

Ezra and his wife, Loring, were chess masters. Following Ezra's death, Loring continues giving chess lessons, both as a way of making ends meet, and as a small source of companionship in her old age. When she agrees to teach a young boy, Stan, she is immediately intrigued by him. It's not long before she is convinced that somehow Stan is the embodiment of her late husband.

When you lose someone you love so dearly, someone with whom you've spent so much of your life, the idea of their coming back in one form or another is definitely appealing. As Loring begins seeing more evidence that supports her belief about Stan, she wonders if this is the truth or if her mind is simply seeing what it wants to.

The problem with this story is that it meanders all over the place. It's a reflection on grief, love, and loss, and look at how societies treat the elderly. It's also a commentary on what dreams are, why games can be important to both adults and children, and the importance of belief in things that can't quite be explained, such as magic. But far too often, Ball veers from the core of his story into random details that he picks up and drops just as quickly, which made it very difficult to comprehend. Here's one example:

"The caretaker was there, and saw her walking. He came up, and with him his wife and daughter. This wife and this daughter, they were the same person, by a series of odd coincidences, but we will not go into that at the moment."

I've never read anything by Ball before, so I don't know if he was being deliberately obtuse and mysterious with the way he told this particular story, or if this is the way he writes. I was expecting a story about human emotion and perhaps a little mystery, and while I did find a bit of the former, much of the story left me disconnected and frustrated.

No comments:

Post a Comment