*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Author: Ian Williams
Publisher: Random House Canada
Publication Date: January 22, 2019
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Felicia and Edgar meet as their mothers are dying. Felicia, a teen from an island nation, and Edgar, the lazy heir of a wealthy German family, come together only because their mothers share a hospital room. When Felicia’s mother dies and Edgar’s “Mutter” does not, Felicia drops out of high school and takes a job as Mutter’s caregiver. While Felicia and Edgar don’t quite understand each other, and Felicia recognizes that Edgar is selfish, arrogant, and often unkind, they form a bond built on grief (and proximity) that results in the birth of a son Felicia calls Armistice. Or Army, for short.
Some years later, Felicia and Army (now 14) are living in the basement of a home owned by Oliver, a divorced man of Portuguese descent who has two kids–the teenaged Heather and the odd little Hendrix. Along with Felicia and Army, they form an unconventional family, except that Army wants to sleep with Heather, and Oliver wants to kill Army. Then Army’s fascination with his absent father–and his absent father’s money–begins to grow as odd gifts from Edgar begin to show up. And Felicia feels Edgar’s unwelcome shadow looming over them. A brutal assault, a mortal disease, a death, and a birth reshuffle this group of people again to form another version of the family.
Reproduction has been sitting in my TBR for a while, I must admit. It’s length was a bit daunting and with limited time over the past year, I found myself reaching for it and putting it back again to revisit at a later date with more time on my hands. With its recent Giller Prize win, I had to pull it out as a part of my holiday reading to find out what all of the hype was about.
This novel spans the lifetime of Felicia and Edgar exploring ideas of what it means to be family and how we as humans form bonds in all sorts of circumstances. Edgar is a revolting sort of individual. He’s selfish, arrogant, closed-off. As the story progresses, we find him embroiled in the #MeToo movement, an allegation that he vehemently denies, but we as readers know intimately what he is capable of. Felicia begins this story as a young immigrant woman from an unnamed island who, as the story progresses makes a life for herself, but ultimately is not able to extract herself from the toxic relationship that she found herself in as a young woman.
What’s interesting about this story is the steady and continual deconstruction of the classic literary form as the story progresses and illness sets in for Edgar. As these characters age, so too does the book start to break down and lose form. Names are not always spelled correctly. Super and subscripts start to punctuation and break up the main lines of text. The story itself is a physical manifestation of the breakdown of the body as age and illness take hold and ravage the physical form.
It is certainly an interesting work. The writing form is a bit experimental but is intriguing. The story itself is compelling, but the characters are often unlikable, yet remain relateable. They are wholly human, imperfect and rough around they edges. They make mistakes and they don’t always make the right or moral choices.
Overall, it was a certainly engaging and intriguing read. I found the study of human relationships to be compelling and I would encourage you to check this one out.