Monthly Archives: October 2012

what I read: Leaving, by Timothy Ativas

Leaving.

Timothy Ativas.

Skyline Press, 2012.

The first half of this book was a real slog. The toil turned out to be worthwhile, though: the second half, especially the ending, is fantastic.

‘Leaving’ is mostly the story of Sam, a middle-aged man, as he travels across the continental United States, east to west. He leaves his home in Boston  in pursuit of his daughter, who moved to San Francisco some years before. The whole country has suffered some kind of (frustratingly underdescribed) calamity, which has led to most of the population emigrating.

The story follows Sam as he travels, mostly walking, and deals with the runins with bandits, shut-ins, and kind samaritans that you would expect in the post-apocalyptic setting. However, most of the action, such as it is, occurs in Sam’s head. As I mentioned before, this part of the book is rather plodding; Sam has plenty of time to mull over the many, many failings of his life. His laundry-list of mistakes and bad decisions is fun for a while, but becomes repetitive quickly. When it comes to stories like this, it can work when flashbacks are interspersed.

His relationship with his daughter isn’t explored too deeply in these sections, which makes their meeting all the more interesting. The meeting itself is rather abrupt, but the relationship which emerges afterwards is poignant and heartbreaking. She has been working in the rapidly-fading seaside city, unable to leave, while seemingly everyone else is fleeing the country.

As a fan of apocalypses and related ephemera, I was disappointed by the lack of exploration of the calamity itself. Like The Road, the event and its causes are alluded to only vaguely. The important part is what happens afterwards.

I don’t want to spoil anything: you’ll just have to read it yourself.

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what I read: The Ottoman Motel, by Christopher Currie

The Ottoman Motel.

Christopher Currie.

Text, 2012.


Admission: I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I wanted to.

Possible reason for my dissatisfaction: based upon blurb-skim in the bookshop, I was prepared for a creepy paranormal story about missing parents, uncaring townsfolk, a boy lost and alone, a (literally) shadowy conspiracy.

I was wrong. This is a story of old crimes: unsolved mysteries, haunting memories. A small town with a long history of tragedy and lies. A thoroughly human, scarily plausible story.

Looking back, the blurb doesn’t actually point to a a creepy supernatural story – way to jump to conclusions, self! – so I needed to do a little bit of mental rebalancing.

The Ottoman Motel wasn’t a bad read. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t much care for unreliable child narrators (though I do seem to keep reading books featuring same). However, the protagonist Simon is a convincing picture of a confused kid with traumas both old and new. His interactions with the slightly ‘off’ town of Reception and its similarly haunted inhabitants are evocative and realistic.

I was less satisfied with the overall story, however. The overarching mystery – the disappearance of Simon’s parents – is approached from a number of different angles, but none of them seem to really stick, and are lost in the sea of complications the other characters bring. There’s a lot going on here, and it’s all interwoven almost perfectly. But the breadth of the story elements ultimately leaves the book as a whole feeling a little shallow.

The creepiness of the setting, and most of the town’s inhabitants, is communicated very well; overall, the writing is excellent. I’m really excited to see where Currie goes next.

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