Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2011
: When wounds and illnesses, both superficial and severe, begin emitting a beautiful shimmering light--a phenomenon quickly coined "The Illumination"--a chain of characters learn to adapt to this unexpected change in Kevin Brockmeier's incandescent novel, The Illumination
. No longer able hide their own pains from the world, and suddenly exposed to the discomfiting wounds of strangers, friends, and lovers, these characters struggle to adapt to a new way of experiencing life and, in very different ways, to understand the intrinsic connection between love and pain. "There was an ache inside people that seemed so wonderful sometimes," one character muses. And then, because this ache is also corporeal, "He wished he had brought his camera with him." While Brockmeier's brilliant novel is innately tied up in pain and loss, witnessing the lives he creates in the midst of this new wonder is not only a beautiful experience but, yes, an illuminating one. --Lynette Mong
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In Brockmeier's spectacular latest (after The View from the Seventh Layer), pain manifests itself as visible light after a mysterious event called "the Illumination," revealing humanity to be mortally wounded, and yet Brockmeier finds in these overlapping, storylike narratives, beauty amid the suffering. Jason Williford, a photojournalist, loses his wife in a traffic accident and fixates on a troubled teenage girl who teaches him to cultivate pain "in a dreamlike vesper." Chuck Carter, a battered and bullied neighbor boy, steals a journal of love notes from Jason's house, and later gives the journal to door-knocking evangelist Ryan Shifrin, who found his faith after watching his younger sister die from cancer. Telescoping into his decades of service to the church, Ryan wonders at the civil strife and disasters that "produce a holocaust of light." Through accounts of quotidian suffering depict humanity's quiet desperation--the agony of a severed thumb, the torture of chronic mouth ulcers--Brockmeier's careful reading of his characters' hearts and minds gives readers an inspiring take on suffering and the often fleeting nature of connection. (Feb.)
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