Before You Go

Tommy Butler. Harper, $26.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-293496-3
Butler brilliantly imagines the creation of human life, and the toll its imperfection takes on Elliot, a Gen-X man from Connecticut, in this dazzling debut. Interludes headed “Before” describe a rather slipshod process of otherworldly creation, in which a being named Merriam places a tiny void in her design of the human body that leaves people with an unconscious, undefined longing, while her partner, Jollis, dumps bottles of emotions into the hole to try to fix it. In the central narrative, Elliot Chance, whom the reader meets at age nine in 1981, is, like everyone else, subject to his body’s major design flaw, but at this age, he doesn’t yet feel it. Butler describes Elliot and his older brother’s innocent years playing outside and confronting the power of nature in beautiful, heart-wrenching prose. Elliot has a few kindred spirits in high school and college, but drifts through a depression as a young adult in New York City until he’s invited to a suicide prevention group, where he connects with Sasha, who writes ad copy with encrypted messages demeaning the client’s product, and Bannor, who claims he has traveled to the future. Bannor tells Elliot about the forthcoming pharmaceutical interventions that will medicate all emotions. Meanwhile, Elliot battles depression until he finds the value of living in the moment. Butler’s treatise on the value of life with all its moments of darkness and light leaves the reader with aching gratitude for their existence. Agent: Doug Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 06/09/2020
Release date: 08/11/2020
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-06-293498-7
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