Archive for March 21st, 2011

The Illumination

Monday, March 21st, 2011

By Kevin Brockmeier

The Short Take:

This book is brilliant! No pun intended. Once again, Brockmeier has penned a novel that defies categorization. Though his central concept could come straight from a sci-fi movie, this incredibly moving tale of human love, loneliness, and pain is rich, nuanced, and heartbreakingly beautiful.


Brockmeier is the author of one of my all-time favorite books, The Brief History of the Dead, so I had high expectations going into his newest effort. He did not disappoint.

A sudden, world-wide change impacts everyone personally, yet this global alteration is nothing compared to the effect a book of love notes has on six individuals. As this book passes from one person to another, so does the story. Each of the six main characters struggle with the human hunger for connection and companionship, yet each struggle takes a unique form.

Moving, often profound, and beautifully written, The Illumination certainly brightened my reading world.

A Little Plot:

Suddenly and for no known reason, all human suffering emits light: hangnails, hunger, toothaches, cancer, every form of pain emits a visible light that brightens, fades, and changes along with the pain. Everyone’s physical suffering is visible to all. But not the suffering of the human soul.

For one lonely woman,a new widower, an abused autistic child, a missionary with uncertain faith, a writer who every spoken word hurts, and a homeless man with a special power it is not this illumination that changes their lives as much as a book. Single sentence love notes were written by the widower every day of his marriage and then copied into journals by his now-deceased wife.

These messages of love haunt each person who comes to possess this book in different ways. Some find pain, some find a strange comfort. In a way, that also describes Brockmeier’s incredible novel.

I couldn’t find a web site for Brockmeier, but to see his Random House page, click here.


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