cover image The Illusion of Separateness

The Illusion of Separateness

Simon Van Booy. Harper, $24.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-211224-8

The latest addition to Van Booy’s eclectic literary repertoire is a fractured but fine-tuned narrative revealed through the sum of its pieced-together parts. The story is based on actual events and told from the perspective of six distantly related characters in alternating chapters stretching from New York in 1939 to France throughout WWII, and to East Sussex, England, and Los Angeles, Calif., both in 2010; it quietly unfolds around a multigenerational family ravaged by war, loss, and regret. Mr. Hugo is a disfigured Nazi soldier atoning for his crimes; Martin is a French caretaker at a retirement home for aging starlets; Amelia is a blind 20-something searching for love while setting up programs for the sightless at New York’s Museum of Modern Art; and John survived the crash of his B-24 plane over Nazi-occupied France to join the French resistance. Using restraint and a subtle dose of foreshadowing, Van Booy (Everything Beautiful Began After) expertly entangles these disparate lives; but it’s what he leaves out that captures the imagination. Full of clever staccato sentences (“Most nights, he watches television. Then he falls asleep and the television watches him”) bookended by snippets of inner monologue—obvious, but ripe with meaning (“We all have different lives... but in the end probably feel the same things, and regret the fear we thought might somehow sustain us”), the writing is what makes this remarkable book soar. Agent: Carrie Kania, Conville & Walsh Literary Agency (U.K.) (July)