Monday, November 7, 2022

Book Review: "The Hero of This Book" by Elizabeth McCracken

The Hero of This Book, the new novel from Elizabeth McCracken, is thought-provoking and emotional.

“Once somebody is dead, the world reveals all the things they might have enjoyed if they weren’t.”

When is a memoir not a memoir? That is a question raised a lot during this book. The narrator, a writer, is grieving following the death of her mother 10 months earlier. She decides to take a trip to London, which was the last place she traveled with her mother a few years earlier.

As she wanders the streets and sees the sights—some they visited on their trip—she thinks a lot about her mother and their relationship. Her mother was tough, feisty, fiercely intelligent, and had to deal with multiple physical challenges which affected her ability to walk and stand. But her mother was also a private person, and there are many things that she never truly knew about her.

What’s interesting about this book is that Elizabeth McCracken’s mother died also, and there are similarities between the narrator and mother in this book and the mother and daughter in real life. McCracken (or the narrator) spends much of the book considering whether writing about her mother’s life would be a violation of her privacy, even after death. But someone who lived a life like her mother deserves someone to write about her.

The very meta nature of this book made it both fascinating and a little bit frustrating. The narrator’s mother was very vividly depicted in the book, but when the focus wasn’t on her, it wasn’t as interesting to me.

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