Title: All Things Bright and Strange
Author: James Markert
Read harder Challenge: Yes; a book about nature
Star Review: ♥♥♥♥ /5
This book is hard to categorize. There are elements of the gothic (Southern gothic), some magical realism, there is some Lost Generation throwback, there are moments where this book grapples with racism, sexism, homophobia, discrimination and bigotry of all sorts. Despite all those big concepts, it is a book that is light on its feet and imminently readable. It asks us to consider how, exactly, the collective can continue to push forward and progress without losing the best parts of itself in the process. Since I think that’s a question worth addressing, I really found value in this book. There is a wry humor to this book (the main character reminds me of a Hemingway character), with a good dash of whimsy, and the language is at times lush and evocative. There are characters to fall in love with, be angry at, and appreciate for the people they are and the choices they make.
Ellsworth signs up for the War (that would be WWI to us) as a way to process his grief over losing his wife in a fire. He comes back damaged, as did many young men. We come to realize that Ellsworth’s life is not one that could simply be explained by the known forces in our world. As his town struggles to find ways to heal and unite after war, slavery, and in the face of a changing world, they discover a little chapel in the woods. Although not all can see it, this chapel does not live up to its promise of salvation. Ellsworth and the team he assembles, so very far from perfect, must work together to be their best selves in order to help the town that they love and the people in it.
I would recommend this book to: anyone who struggles to accept themself as a result of perceived difference. Anyone who has wondered about their purpose. The first half is a slow burn as the reader gets to know the characters, but the plot quickly runs downhill starting at about the 50% mark. I found this book relevant to the current climate, and so someone looking for a way to encapsulate preoccupation about tolerance in a fiction novel would do well to read this one.
I received this book free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion. This did not affect the content of my review.