Sunday, March 18, 2018

Solving Life's Mysteries: theMystery.doc and My Dead Parents

Matthew McIntosh's novel theMystery.doc is not for every reader. It is unconventional and on the surface without form. But in the end, I found the experience strangely moving and haunting.

Writers today are pushing the limits of the Novel form, as they were a century ago with James Joyce and The Wasteland by T. S. Eliot. More recently, non-traditional, award-winning novels like Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders and The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton are often confusing or off-putting to the general reader.

I was caught by theMystery.doc, enjoying its crazy ride and trusting it would offer me something to grasp onto at the end.

In a series of story clips, we learn about the death of a father who was a pastor, and that of a newborn child. There is a man who has lost his memory, a writer with an unfinished book of eleven years toil, who is captured as a spy. There is a man trying to determine if a customer service helper on the phone is human or computer generated. There is a young couple at a lake. There are photograph clips from old movies. A phone discussion with someone trapped in a burning building on 9-11. The impressions build upon each other.

What I got out of the novel is this: The artist is a spy, observing other's lives, and turning what he sees into words, making symbols that--hopefully-- say something useful about life. The biggest mystery is death and if our lives have any meaning or are part of any higher order.

Kindle told me it would take me 9 hours to read this book, but there are so many photos, lines without words, and dead space that it the book read a lot faster.

I received a free book from the publisher through a direct email regarding a contest.

Read an excerpt of the novel at
https://www.npr.org/books/titles/554211429/themystery-doc

Read reviews at
https://www.npr.org/2017/10/07/553975641/youre-going-to-hate-themystery-doc-and-thats-okay
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/dec/08/themysterydoc-matthew-mcintosh-review
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Anya Yurchyshyn's book My Dead Parents takes us on her journey from a child's view of her parents, and after their deaths, discovering their secret history of love and loss.

The author begins with telling us her experience growing up in a dysfunctional family. Her parents were brilliant, yet her father was judgemental and often angry, and her mother was often distant and disapproving. She was a teenager when her father moved abroad to start businesses in the Ukraine, land of his birth, and her mother's drinking became more obvious.

The latter part of the book describes the author's journey in search of her parents, reading their love letters and interviewing friends and family to learn their past history. This is an experience we all must go through--the acceptance of our parents are flawed human beings, and that we don't know the experiences that created the people we remember.

The most intriguing part of the book is when the author travels to the Ukraine to untangle the mystery of her father's death in a car accident. Conflicting reports leave open the possibility that her father's death was not accidental.

Learning about post-Soviet Ukrainian history was very interesting to me. As a family history researcher, I also found the author's journey interesting.

I received a free ebook from First to Read.

My Dead Parents
by Anya Yurchyshyn
Crown
$27 hardcover
ISBN 978-0-553-44704-0
Publication Date: March 27, 2018