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Saturday, December 7, 2013

White Apples by Johnathan Carroll

White Applesis a magic realism novel about the recently deceased Vincent Ettrich, a rather benign womanizer who is returned to life so that he can raise and teach his unborn son, fated to save the universe.  We never find out too much about why his son is so important, or what exactly he is supposed to do in the future, but that's not the point.  Instead the focus is on Vincent himself, and the mother of his child, Isabelle, both of whom must overcome their flaws and weaknesses if they are to defeat the forces of chaos and keep their son alive.

Vincent and Isabel themselves are fully realized characters, by turns sympathetic and frustrating, and Carroll convincingly depicts their love for each other.  My heart even broke a little at the image of Vincent with exactly two dishes, two cups, two forks in his apartment, waiting in vain for the love of his life to join him -- impressive writing on Carroll's part, to make me feel bad for a man who left his wife and children.

Carroll's novel suffers sometimes from too much telling and not enough showing, as major metaphysical concepts are basically just explained to the characters.  On the other hand, those concepts are fascinating and inventive -- most notably, that life both on an individual and a universal scale is a mosaic of tiles representing every choice, action, and event, a mosaic that is constantly made and remade.  It's chaos's goal to prevent this, and the way Carroll depicts the struggle is both unique and horrifying.  I can't recall any other book quite like this one.

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