“Did he… did he give me a Christian missionary book? Is that why he wants to send me a care package?”. Now, I know that the word “Bible” doesn’t necessarily means it’s the Bible. It could literally refer to any other book – just like this one.
The reason why I jumped on the word “Bible” is because there’s literally no indication of what this book is about on the cover at all. In fact, it’s confusing. There’s a big frog illustration at the front, no idea how that relates to the title, and the oddest blurb I’ve read so far:
“At the wheel of a stolen Honda Civic is Aberystwyth, aka Aby, driving across Canada to save the soul of her dying mother. She is green, gill-necked, and very uncomfortable out of the water.
An unexpected encounter with Aby sets off a chain of events which sends each of them on a personal quest. Can Rebecca, Lewis and Aby find redemption before a terrible flood destroys their chance of happiness?”
Now that I’ve finished reading it, I understand the vague angle this book is gunning for. Basically, I can’t explain it either. It’s not really chicklit; as the cliché goes, “it’s not a love story, it’s a story about love”. There are definitely elements of sci-fi in here, the frogs weren’t just the graphic designers being random. I want to say that it is a spiritual book, that the “Bible” actually lends itself to moral and religious themes, but that might give the impression that it has Paulo Coelho’s philosophical approach or it is a do-it-yourself “Eat, Pray, Love” type of book, which it is neither.
What you do need to know is that Andrew Kaufman had written an amazing book, one which quite blew my mind. It’s a book that is deceptively simple but is actually really complex in the way that it connects the subplots into one seamless story.
The characters are quirky; not annoyingly so, not different versions of Zooey Deschanel times five. They are quirky in the sense that you immediately notice that their attributes or personality is slightly off-kilter. Take Rachel, for example, a woman who is unable to stop broadcasting her feelings every single time. Basically, any emotion that she feels inwardly will be transmuted to anybody within range. I don’t know how Kaufman does it, but somehow, he made it work. The characters are also extremely likable even though each is different from the next. You just accept that the world in this book is slightly different than the world we are living in. His words are like a really good textual massage: you have no idea what’s going on but you want more of it, no matter how weird the positions are.
The genius behind this book is how he handles the spiritual side, not by spewing dogma like Elizabeth Gilbert in her self-indulgent travel guide. How Kaufman does it is placing strange characters in even stranger situations. Lewis, who couldn’t handle the death of his wife, started talking to a mystery woman who claims herself to be “God” until he was actually convinced that she is God. Coincidentally, Lewis also named the “God” woman after his own wife, Lisa. Or Stewart who built a ship in the middle of Canadian prairie because a kindling fire spoke to him. There are so many familiar religious references like this, although I don’t think the book actually concerns Christianity at all. I love the dialogue about the boat:
“Do you think this boat, the building of it, is misplaced anxiety about leaving Rebecca? About how badly you want to leave – emotionally, not just physically – but you can’t?”
I am really surprised that I only found out about Andrew Kaufman now; I’m definitely looking into his other works. Fans of Nick Hornby, also a familiar face in writing familiar scenarios with a twist, should give this book a go.
Thank you, Andreas, for the lovely gift!