Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Review: "Phantoms" by Christian Kiefer

Phantoms, the new novel from American author Christian Kiefer, is a novel you have seen countless times before, and I got the sense throughout that it was okay with that and in turn, the reader has a chance to feel okay with that too. It hits all the right beats you’d expect from this kind of story, but does so in a very comprehensive and engaging way and never slacking off for the duration of the books 227 pages, which fly by rather quickly and effortlessly. If it has one glaring flaw it is that it feels small but wishes it were bigger, with its profound moments throughout the book going unearned at some points and feeling numb to scenes of grave importance. For a book as short as it is, there are quite a few characters and even the character that is supposed to be viewed as the main character feels more like a background character than anything else. The book begins at the end of WWII, where Ray Takahashi comes home to his small California town to find his childhood home rented out to strangers and his family long gone. We do not find out the whole story until the end, and in between we are introduced to John Frazier, a drug addicted Vietnam vet who stumbles onto the story through distant family relations and a somewhat obsessive need for literary inspiration, which he finds in the interconnected lives of Evelyn Wilson, whose husband rented the land to Ray’s family and Kimiko Takahashi, Ray’s mother. This book feels like a lesser example of Kia Corthron’s The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter, right down to the big violent catalyst of the story. That book did it better, but this story of two families torn apart by a country’s simmering hate (and a half-baked love story) is an engaging and pleasurable read.
Rating: 4/4

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