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abookaweek 2012: week twenty-two

2012 June 3

The Flame Alphabet, by Ben Marcus

Category: Recent (published within the last year or so)

Story: In a small town in New York state, a father struggles to keep his wife and himself alive as they endure a plague that has spread over the world; children’s speech has suddenly become toxic.

Opinion: This isn’t the exciting post-apocalyptic novel I was expecting to read, instead it is a rumination on the nature of speech and communication, family, and religion. Marcus dives headfirst into the complicated life of a family, none of whose members is particularly likeable; by robbing them of the cloak of speech he lays bare the bones of the family structure. Along the way he makes some astute observations that really challenged some of the ideas I had about family life.

If I sound like I don’t know what I’m talking about, that is because it’s how the book made me feel. Without spoiling too much, there is a complicated story about an underground Jewish faith that involves listening to services through a gel-filled bag in a hole in the ground.

I hope that doesn’t put anyone off, because this book is so worth reading. It’s just that I’m still processing it a week after finishing it, and it is going to take me a bit longer than that, even.

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