Of Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson
Publisher: The Friday Project. February 3, 2015
Genre: Literary Fiction with Magical Realism
First Line: Mrs Featherby had been having pleasant dreams until she woke to discover the front of her house had vanished overnight.
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Now this was a weird book. Of Things Gone Astray is a beautifully intricate webs of strange nonsense, that often hits surprisingly close to home. It definitely pushed every quirky and whimsical button of mine. It was fun and playful, but could be poignant and sad. And wow, this is some of the most fun dialogue I've ever read.
This is a charming novel following a cast of characters who have each lost things. Things you don't normally lose. The front wall of your house, your sense of direction, your place of work (like it's physically gone), your piano keys. But it's also about the power of relationships with other people. Oh and somebody turns into a tree. Not a spoiler. Trees take a long time to grow, ya goof. And the best part is that all of these stories intertwine, some lightly and some heavily. I love when that happens.
Overall, reading Of Things Gone Astray was a pretty good time. Each chapter switched to a new character, keeping me mostly interested in everyone's stories, and they were often quite short. And pretty funny or totally on point. If you need logical explanations for the weird magical whimsy that goes on, stop here and back away from this book. Of course, most of the characters needed to lose something to find something else, which appears in several beautiful ways. But like there's no scientific reason for a tree girl.
My only real qualm with this book is the lack of character and story development with a few characters, but specifically Marcus. Marcus is an old man and famous pianist who loses his piano keys. He's also grieving the loss of his partner/husband (not sure if the term was specified or what it would be in the UK) and a strained relationship with his college aged daughter. There was so much potential here, but most of the time he seemed like an after thought. His story was not as connected as the others and the ending to his story isn't completely satisfying.
I also had issue with the ending in general. Many of the characters had kind of rushed, frayed ends. But it was still charming. Perhaps I'm just one who either wants an ending wide open or very resolved. It's a personal problem that's hard to reconcile. But I did think, with how much layering and interlocking of characters there was, that it was going to build up to something bigger.
But it was sweet. It was soft and strange. It made me think about what's really important in my life.
"One simply cannot be a believable recluse when one is cursed with a transparent wall."
"Pfft. If you realized you do need help, you wouldn't need as much help as you need."
"'Morning Dee,' her mother trilled as she walked in the front door. Her mother had started trilling. Delia hadn't realised things had gone that far."
Outlandishness Rating: 9/10
She grows into a tree! What!