What I'm Reading
This is not like a any book I have read before.
In the author's note at the end of the book, McCann says that this is a hybrid novel. There is a story - a powerful, heartbreaking yet uplifting tale - but also factual snippets, photographs and gobbets of history. Like the title, this book tells a story that is limitless and boundless with many sides.
The story is about two men who have lost their young daughters in horrific circumstances. One man is Palestinian and the other is Israeli and they join a group of parents who have suffered the same loss. As a group they travel the world to give talks about what had happened to them.
One girl is shot in the back of her head with a rubber bullet and the other is killed during a terrorist attack by someone wearing a suicide belt, or a 'murder vest', a term I prefer and will use from now on. The suffering for the families is revisited throughout, from different perspectives but always raw and painful. Like the deaths, the suffering become global and limitless. Actual photographs (shown in the book) and other images that remind them of their loss, lines from poems, films and filmmakers, history and politics so that 'her absence is her presence.'
The book is complex and far-reaching; the theme of infinite borders threads through in human history, religion, and culture. To demonstrate this are birds. They are on the cover and many chapters explain how they are caught for the sport of hunting, are hunted themselves and eaten by the French president, and how they are tagged and sold. As birds they have no borders during flight and yet their lives are full of suffering and control.
The format of this hybrid novel has many chapters that number forward and backward, of varying length, sometimes only a sentence or a picture, of thoughts or facts, of events not told chronologically: 'the simplest form of infinity'. A book that has to be read.
Published by Bloomsbury on 25 February 2020. Advanced review copy supplied by the publisher.