Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier

In our world some wounds are obvious, many more are hidden. In Brockmeier's book all wounds—both external and internal, physical and emotional are obvious by their illuminated glow.

The book starts when Carol Ann Page cuts her thumb when trying to cut threaded tape wrapped around a package. The cut at first seems minor but eventually requires surgery. While in the hospital she first notices that the wound glows. But she is not the only one—all over the world wounds send out a glowing light.

An individual can stand anywhere and observe the pain and the sickness.

In a recent essay in the Writer's Chronicle Brockmeier is noted as being a master of the grand metaphor.

One thread carried throughout the book is the peregrinations of a journal that belonged to a woman killed in a traffic accident. The journal contains a compilation of daily love notes — notes from her husband. He left her a love note a day and she copied them into her journal. Carol Ann Page shares the hospital room with this dying woman who tells her to take the journal.

That starts a series of stories—all connected in some way to the journal and the love notes. Six people have contact with the writings—Carol Ann, a widowed photographer, a mute boy, a solitary missionary, a writer, and a mentally ill homeless man.

From Jacob Appel's essay in The Writer's Chronicle:
"...implicit in Brockmeier's metaphors is the suggestion that human beings have the capacity to adjust to whatever extraordinary often improbable circumstances that fate throws their way."

Early on Brockemeier poses this question: " Were we outlived by our pain? How long did it cling to the world?"

The Illumination has staying power. It can't be put down and forgotten. It's a book to discuss, a book to ponder, and a book to reread —not only for its ideas, but for its writing.

Take a Chance Challenge—Staff Member's Choice

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