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Familiar: A Novel Kindle Edition
|Length: 224 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Author Robert Lennon gives us more than one way of viewing the cause of what's happening to Elisa. One is supernatural, the other not. As far as the story's concerned, it doesn't really mater what the answer is. What's important is that her new circumstances force Elisa to carefully reexamine fateful choices and accidental occurrences in her life. These include her career choices, her relationship to her husband and her children, all of which are quite different in the "new" life she finds herself living.
In the course of watching Elisa navigate a different life, "Familiar" covers a wide span of topics, including unhappy marriages and infidelity, couples therapy, dysfunctional families, spiteful, ungrateful children, body self-image, wish fulfillment, video games, internet culture, sci-fi conventions, and the differences between what is real and imagined in everyday life. Lennon's covering a lot (and I mean a lot) of ground here, especially considering that "Familiar" clocks in at a relatively brief 225 pages.
I think he pulls it off. Elisa's character is well developed, complex and feels quite substantial. The emotional turmoil that her alternate timeline forces her to confront is painful and sometimes bleak, not unlike real life for those of us stuck in a single timeline. And while parts of the book dealing with her estrangement from her horribly screwed up sons verged on depressing, the author kept me engaged with a steady stream of dense character dialogue and forward movement. A warning, though, the book's themes are far more likely to resonate with an older reader with some life experience under her belt. Less so for a younger reader who's hoping for a Matrix-like exploration of alternate realities.
Suddenly one day while driving Elisa changes to a different Elisa, driving a different and new car. So now she must adjust somehow to making her way with Derek--he's the same Derek--without letting on that she is not who she was.
Were this plot in the hands of a lesser novelist, it would have crashed for me right there, just a quarter of the way through the novel. I have little toleration for novels that take me into any type of "twilight zone." But the Lennon novel is not a "twilight zone" read.
The novel is essentially about parenting, about how inadequate adults are at it, how ill equipped we are, how what we'd envisioned ourselves to be as parents is unrealistic. Elisa and Derek, the newly transformed Elisa, now have two adult sons. This is not a spoiler since all this happens soon on in the novel. Yes, Silas is alive. And Sam is straight. And they are living in San Francisco where Silas has a company that makes computer games, maybe successfully so, maybe not. And in comes the "counselor," Amos, who has been counselling the couple although Elisa doesn't recall anything earlier. Amos counsels only around five concepts that Elisa, the new Elisha, doesn't accept. She wants to be reunited with her sons and the last part of the novel deals with that.
When anyone writes that this novel doesn't go anywhere, it means either they didn't read it or weren't up to the experimental component of this very unusual novel.
I am a bit disappointed in the ending of the novel and suggest that future readers might wish to read the three pages at the end of the novel where the author writes about how the novel came to be.