Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Table of Contents: The Illumination

Author: Kevin Brockmeier
Publisher/Year: Pantheon, 2011
Synopsis: What if our pain was the most beautiful thing about us?

At 8:17 on a Friday night, the Illumination begins. Every wound begins to shine, every bruise to glow and shimmer. And in the aftermath of a fatal car accident, a journal of love notes, written by a husband to his wife, passes into the keeping of Carol Ann Page, and from there through the hands of five other people—a photojournalist, a schoolchild, a missionary, a writer, and a street vendor. As their stories unfold, we come to understand how intricately and brilliantly they are connected, in all their human injury and experience.

The New York Times
"The reader never doubts that, on a certain day at a certain time, light begins to pour from our wounds. The strange transformation is wonderfully human, down to the social awkwardness it engenders..."

Los Angeles Times

"The novel's light makes for a new beauty in being human. But since the light reveals hurts — from the insistent gleam of an old man's hip to the soft halo of a college student's hangover — the question arises of what it means to see it. Does the light demand a new kind of empathy? And if so, does this empathy have limits?"

The Guardian
"Each new character and scenario takes up a single chapter but covers months, sometimes years – and in the case of Ryan the missionary a whole lifetime – and each would easily expand to fill a whole novel. And yet in a way which I found both risky and startling and finally very moving, Brockmeier dares to leave things ragged, to let things go."

The A.V. Club
"The Illumination ultimately can’t decide what to say with its shining images, and the notes’ totemic luster isn’t enough to replace a core idea. But while The Illumination loses control of its miracle, it presents a number of enduringly beautiful, surprising visions."

The Globe and Mail
"The brightness of light objectifies suffering (leading to “a new age of critical care” in medicine), but seeing someone’s pain isn’t necessarily the same as feeling it. The problem is that as each character struggles to come to grips with a world where inner states are made visible in a flash of light, they nonetheless are betrayed by an uneasy sense that this new-found transparency has somehow diminished their sense of self. What they all long for is the return of some sense of privacy."

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