2012 part 1 chapter 5
observations: My, but this is a compelling and thrilling book: seriously unsettling and a seriously good read.
Elisa, above, has just found herself in a new world. Except it isn’t a new world – it’s just subtly different from the one she remembers living in. Everything is familiar, but not quite the same. And there is one huge difference: she had been visiting her dead son’s grave. His death had been a devastation to her, a defining moment in her life. But in this new world, he is still alive… and, in the best subverted expectation imaginable, he’s actually not very nice: a brilliant direction to explore.
Elisa fumbles her way around in her new milieu – sometimes aware that she has surprised people by what she doesn’t know. She makes changes in her new life to make it resemble more her old life – there is an entertaining strand in which she tracks down the man who was her lover before, and a funny but awful scene where she applies for her old job. She wonders if this is some aspect of Multiverse physics she has come up against, and investigates that.
It’s not just an amnesia story, or time travel; and in fact the ending could be a little disappointing to some – it’s very much not all wrapped up and explained. But Lennon makes that work, and the scenario is endlessly thought-provoking – what makes us what we are? If we change something a little, are we still the same? What IS going on in Elisa’s head, is this for real?
The writing is amazing: Elisa’s son is a computer game designer, and here she thinks how good he is, as she looks at one of his characters, a waitress:
The way the clean apron nevertheless bears faded stains that can never be washed out, and the way it creases when she gestures, the fibers frayed and weak with age. How is it even possible to evoke these details in a video game?It’s a bit like wondering how Lennon can do such a great job writing a woman, in a novel, in an unreal situation. If I’d read this blind I’d have assumed it was written by a woman: he is very clever and knowing about the small details of women’s lives.
All in all, the book is a triumph.
The picture is of a bus driver in Washington State in 1945 – wrong era, wrong vehicle, but it looked true to the spirit of the new Elisa, and if we’re talking parallel universes, who’s to say it isn’t actually her.