The Unwritten Book: An Investigation

Samantha Hunt. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-0-374-60491-2

Novelist Hunt (The Dark Dark) scours literature for “alphabets and signs” of the dead in her stirring nonfiction debut. As she writes, “The dead leave clues, and life is a puzzle of trying to read and understand these mysterious hints before the game is over.” Her investigation centers on an unfinished novel written by her late father, Walter, parts of which (as well as her annotations of it) are mixed in with her thoughts on what it means to be human. As she considers the novel (about a magazine editor confronted by a society of people who believe dreams can spill over into reality), Hunt reflects on her relationship with her father, including his alcoholism and the love of stories they shared. Like her father, Hunt thinks of books as waypoints: “In books we can find our ways back to the worlds we thought were lost, the world of childhood, the world of the dead.” Hunt writes in touching detail and with heartfelt prose: “There is exquisite beauty and storytelling in the smallness. Reading life and death like a book.” Both intimate and incisive, this genre-melding collection will make readers want to hold their loved ones close. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Apr.)
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