Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I did something I never do with any book. After I finished the last page, I continued reading. I read (read, not skimmed) all of the acknowledgments. I read the paragraph about the typeface twice. I read both jacket flaps and the comments on the back, and then I started over and flipped to the first page and once again read the elegant first sentence that had roped me in from the beginning. All this proves is that the book had me under that pleasant and captivating spell that only really good books can cast, and that I wasn’t ready for it to end. Also that I succumbed to the popular desire to scrutinize The New Yorker‘s youngest of the 20 under 40. Having already been awed by a talent that is considerable regardless of age, I felt the need to weigh it against the proclamations of others once again. It held its ground.
Since I first read “The Laugh” in the Atlantic, I have been taken with Obreht’s storytelling. She paints incredibly detailed and original worlds with her words. Particularly in this book, the strange and vivid ways she finds to juxtapose and yet reconcile wartime with the city zoo and medicine with mythology cause this story to stand apart. Here is an author who is not afraid to look at the painful and grotesque, who demonstrates compassion for the most unlikely of characters, and who is sure to take her readers on a journey. I’m looking forward to reading more of her work in the future.