The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Published April 2006 by Norton, W.W. & Company
Source: bought this one!
I haven't used the publisher summary since shortly after I started blogging but I just can't find a way to sum this one up that won't just sound ridiculous. So here's what the publisher has to say about the book:
Leo Gursky is just about surviving, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he's still alive. But life wasn't always like this: sixty years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. And though Leo doesn't know it, that book survived, inspiring fabulous circumstances, even love. Fourteen-year-old Alma was named after a character in that very book. And although she has her hands full—keeping track of her brother, Bird (who thinks he might be the Messiah), and taking copious notes on How to Survive in the Wild—she undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family.
Now, if you just read that, you'd think there were about four characters in this novel and you wouldn't at all understand why I couldn't wrap up this plot in a paragraph. The problem is, there are a lot more characters, many of whom play a part in what has happened to the book Leo wrote as a young man, many more who play a part in who he is as an old man and a number who interact with Alma and Leo. The book also moves back and forth in time and back and forth over the ocean. It did, to be honest, get a little confusing at time and even, in the end, I have to admit that I'm not altogether sure what happened.
All of which might make it sound like I didn't like this book much. Which was not the case at all. I really liked Krauss' writing style and found her characters to be unique and endearing. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of the time that I was reading the book imagining what the other members of my book club might be thinking of the book and thinking that I wasn't sure it was a book that most of them would enjoy. Which, of course, tempered my enthusiasm. The timing could have been better for this one as well; it's hard to really get the most out of a book you read while you're recovering from surgery. In the end, I wish I would have read this one at a different time and strictly for myself. Because with writing like this...
"The sensation almost knocked the breath out of m. A tingling feeling caught fire in my nerves and spread. The whole thing must have happened in less than thirty seconds. And yet. When it was over, I'd been initiated into the mystery that stands at the beginning of the end of childhood. It was years before I'd spent all the joy and pain born in me in that less than half a minute."
...it's a shame not to have given it my full attention.