Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Review: "A Million Heavens" by John Brandon
I am sure that there is something coherent, and maybe even beautiful in John Brandon’s third novel, A Million Heavens, but I couldn’t find it and was left merely confused by the end, trying my best to connect the dots and make some sense out of the events, but failing to do so. A few years ago, I read Brandon’s novel Citrus County, a deep woods crime caper that was, along with John Sayles mammoth and brilliant novel A Moment in the Sun, a welcome change from what McSweeny’s usually puts out. This novel is much different than Citrus County and more in line with what McSweeny’s usual offering, for better and for worse, offering a very different reading experience but at the sacrifice of coherence, enjoyment and other qualities that make for an inviting and enjoyable reading experience. The setup is a bit convoluted at best, focusing on a teenaged boy in a coma, his suffering father as well as a group of people standing vigil outside his hospital, a woman recently reeling from her own loss, and a few figures, such as a wolf, a mayor and a gas station attendant that may or may not be of this world. In this sort of magical realist sense, it reminded me a lot of Chris Adrian’s weird but good novel The Children’s Hospital, another book published by McSweeny’s. And like that book, some of this book’s weirder elements get in the way, such as the unmentioned link between all of these people. I have an idea about some of them, but I’m not sure if they are correct enough to write about. This feeling kind of taints this book from a writer who still is of interest to me. It never falls flat and is never boring, a book’s greatest sin, but it teeters quite a bit, and left me scratching my head instead of feeling fulfilled.