In the Land of the Living by Austin Ratner
“Part family saga, part coming-of-age story, In the Land of the Living is a kinetic, fresh, bawdy yet earnest shot to the heart of a novel about coping with death, and figuring out how and why to live.”
I gave up on In the Land of the Living about one hundred pages in. The death of a character I had grown fond of definitely played a part in my loss of interest, but more, I tired of the passages of darkly descriptive prose, odd juxtapositions of point of view, thinly drawn secondary characters and overall pall of sadness.
Some books are meant to be sad, I know, and through the veil we see growth and triumph (otherwise I’m not sure of the point of the book except as a means of excising the author’s depression). There were triumphs in In the Land of the Living, but they were too bitterly won for my taste, and then ripped away. One might say, ‘such is life’, and I will acknowledge the world is not always the happy place I have known it to be. I do not require experience of such meanness, however, not when I primarily read for entertainment.
Finally, after a hundred pages, I could discern no plot outside the cycle of sadness and thin victory.
I liked Isadore; he felt very human, even though the author was very careful to expose only select thoughts. With the book spanning lifetimes, we can’t be expected to learn everything, but I still felt we might have known Isadore better. In essence, I would have liked it to be his and only his book, regardless of his eventual fate.
For those who read further, I hope Leo’s story proves as compelling and perhaps more joyful. Sadly, I did not have the perseverance to see for myself.