Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review: "A Fraction of the Whole" by Steve Toltz

It is always nice to be surprised by a book, especially when that surprise is out just good but great, and I am glad to say that Steve Toltz’s A Fraction of the Whole is a great book, one that soars past your expectations, and can, with ease, get tangled in your heart strings. It’s 561 pages are never dull, and the narrator, who opens the book writing his memoirs on loose pieces of paper he finds in a foreign prison, will have you on his side the whole entire time, because his plight is so astounding and moving, but one, deep down, we can relate to. If I had to compare it to any other books, I find that it shares a lot in common with two distinct types of books (I’m cheating, because I will lump two authors together. Firstly, this book acts like an Australian version of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. It has the same cast of un-ironic quirky characters, although the ones here are a bit more violent, and similar themes of fate and sadness about one’s path in life. I can safely say that this book is as good as Irving’s. I also was reminded of two other books, Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory and Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy, in that the nefarious nature of the narrative is hidden behind a narrator that you can’t help but follow. But this book is a different, grander beast than those two books. As I stated before, the book opens in a foreign prison, as Jasper Dean tells the story of his father Martin and his uncle Terry, both criminals who deserve scorn, but while his uncle gets praised as a folk hero, everyone in the country wants his father’s head. We learn the reasons behind such feelings as the story progresses through many different time periods. We learn of Martin’s early years, his mother a refugee of the Holocaust, her marriage to prison architect, and the birth of his half-brother Terry, who excels at sports while Martin is crippled by a years long coma in his adolescents. But when Terry is injured in a way that keeps him out of sports, his ant-social behavior shines through, and he grows up to be a killer of sports players who bet on games, and becomes a folk hero, while Martin is put on a path of nihilistic behavior that will ruin his life. All this ties into
Jasper, who is battling his own demons of unrequited love that have put him on the path to where he is in the beginning. I can’t say much more. This book is full of surprises that will put a smile on your face, or at least keep reading into the morning hours. And while this book could be seen as misanthropic, it has a heartfelt message about doing things your way, even when everyone wants you dead. This is a great book, long but very much worth your time.

No comments:

Post a Comment