3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
`Every moment is a bardo, suspended between past and future. We are always in transition, slipping from one state to the next.',
This review is from: Gods Without Men (Paperback)The novel begins with a short story about Coyote who dies, over and over again, as his desert meth lab explodes every time he tries to rebuild it. It's a sign of strange things to come.
In the next chapter, `1947' we meet a former aircraft engineer named Schmidt and a rock formation in the California desert known as the Pinnacles. `First time Schmidt saw the Pinnacles he knew it was the place.' By the end of the chapter, Schmidt is taken away in a flying saucer. Then, in the next chapter we are in 2008 with Nicky, an English rock star, who is in America to make a record in Los Angeles. He has driven into the desert for a break. The fourth chapter is the text of a letter dated 21 August 1778, describing an encounter at the Pinnacles between a friar and `an angel in the form of a man, who conversed with him and revealed certain mysteries'.
Back in 2008 again, where we meet Jaz and Lisa Matharu and their four year old son Raj, who is autistic. We know (from reading the book cover) that Raj disappears when his family visits the Pinnacles. But what, apart from the Pinnacles, connects these stories and those of the other characters that Mr Kunzru introduces? Raj is not the only missing child we encounter within this novel. In addition to the vanishing children, there are flying saucers, and a cult commune lives at the base of the Pinnacles, building a tower to communicate with the Ashtar Galactic Command. What can this mean? Many of the characters we encounter are flawed, and are searching for something to make their lives complete. Children disappear, adults search - for the children, and for meaning in their own lives. Surely there are answers. Bit by bit, we see some of the connections. In the case of Raj, the media becomes part of the story, interpreting Raj's disappearance and shaping the lives of his parents. And then Raj returns.
`You are the hero of your own adventure.'
It took me a while to get into this novel and to remember who all of the characters were and where they fitted. The different narratives often belong to different periods in time and, for me at least, some characters made more impact than others. Some things are never explained, and readers will either accept them or not. The power of this book is not in understanding what is rationally inexplicable but in appreciating and perhaps accepting the characters with all of their emotional baggage. Lives and stories overlap, together with influence and impact. People come and go, some come back, and some of the damage done is repaired.
I picked this up expecting something quite different: a story about two parents and their autistic child who goes missing for a while. I found some of the other elements peripheral - until I focussed more on the fact (and different natures) of transition.
What does it all mean?