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An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris Hardcover – Deckle Edge, December 4, 2012
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Displaced as a young teen to Parisfor her father’s job, LaCava collected peculiar objects for therapeutic comfort from the unhappiness she found there. If you take her at her word, her curious little book is based on her strangeness and odd habits, and she is exorcising any remaining demons by creating a written record of that difficult time. Interrupting the narrative—and her interruptions sometimes run half a page in length, with her clear intention to do so made obvious—are researched footnotes for the favorite precious objects that the author has encountered, outlining their history and lore: a kaleidoscope, a glass eyeball, a mushroom picked during a late-night walk. LaCava’s descriptions are well matched by Matthew Nelson’s delicate line drawings. In the end, what cleverly fills the honeycomb of LaCava’s own story—one that feels more special than upsetting for its strangeness—is a compassionate, evocative biography of seemingly aberrant things and a collection of historical anecdotes that most readers would never otherwise learn, let alone find gathered all together in one small (but not diminishing), deliberate, and careful book. --Annie Bostrom
“This captivating, wonderfully strange little book is like no other I’ve ever read. Stephanie LaCava has created something original and true, at once emotionally resonant and intellectually challenging. A sheer delight.” (Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion and Slow Motion)
“What cleverly fills the honeycomb of LaCava’s own story is a compassionate, evocative biography of seemingly aberrant things and a collection of historical anecdotes that most readers would never otherwise learn, let alone find gathered all together in one small (but not diminishing), deliberate, and careful book.” (Booklist)
“A series of wistfully illustrated essays. . . . A strange and lovely journey.” (Flavorwire)
“Its brilliance lies in the depth in plumbs. . . . Stephanie LaCava, along with the lovely illustrations throughout the book, shows us just how extraordinary these odd things are.” (Matchbook Magazine)
“Truly a lovely book in every sense.” (Minnesota Public Radio's "The Daily Circuit Blog")
“With help from Matthew Nelson’s elegant drawings, the worldly LaCava impresses by unearthing hidden treasures from a painful youth.” (Interview Magazine)
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While the author has obvious talent, by the end of the book I was only persuaded of one thing; that it was published simply because of her industry contacts and for its merits.
As a reader, I loved how personal this book was. This is what I would have imagined Stephanie to say to herself if she could go back in time and look her younger self in the eyes. It felt like an explanation, if you will, like she was finally coming to terms with who she is and wanted to trace back how she came to that conclusion. The honesty, pain, and trust Stephanie instills in herself is contagious. I closed this book feeling ready to reflect on myself and retrace the steps of my adolescence in order to connect the dots on who I've become as an adult. Fantastic book, and I will be recommending it to EVERYONE!
It wasn't the writing that turned me off, but the structure of the book. The time lapses were disheartening. As soon as I became invested, LaCava changed the scene. Upon rereading the description and it is a COLLECTION OF ESSAYS. That makes a lot more sense.
The description also says "Stephanie LaCava finds solace and security in strange yet beautiful objects", but I don't necessarily see that being shown in throughout the text. Aside from a couple of objects in the beginning, there wasn't any background or emotion expressed with the objects. The narration seemed monotone and distant, which helped portray the numbness of depression, but I ended up not feeling for the author.
If you are looking for a collection of clean-cut, descriptive, well-written essays of random memories from a woman who struggled with depression in Paris, you have it. Do not expect a novel about overcoming a problem, which was my mistake.
I think what it lacked to make it really great for me at least was I didn't really ever feel any kind of emotional connection from her to anything. There were a couple of things she concentrated on more but they all petered out and I think overall the relationship with her father was a big part of the book (and maybe could have been the main part) but even that didn't really go anywhere but a series of outings and wonderings about what he did for a living.
So for me it was a good read, I learned some interesting things about extraordinary objects from an author I could relate to but it could have been so much more.