#1: Fault Lines (by Nancy Huston)


I’m going to kick off by cheating juuuuust a little bit, with a novel I finished over Christmas, despite having started it back in October. There were multiple reasons for this, but mostly it was because I had initially barreled my way through about 200 pages before forcing myself to take a timeout because I was, wait for it, scared of the ending. Yep. I had to put the book in the metaphorical freezer.


Fault Lines starts off pretty arrestingly with the introduction of our first narrator (one of four), a fairly horrifying child named Sol. Sol is wildly precocious beyond his six years, pampered within an inch of his life and wholly convinced of his own messianic potential. He is a small monster, an entitled, zealous product of the information age. “I don’t want anyone else to know that I’m the Sun King, Only Sun and Only Son, Son of Google, Son of God, Eternal Omnipotent Son of the World Wide Web…no one has the vaguest notion of the brilliance, the radiance, the fabulous radioactivity in my brain that will one day transform and heal the universe.” Did I mention he also sneaks onto his mother’s computer and sexually excites himself with images of dead Iraqi soldiers?

Sol has a large mole on his temple, a congenital roving birthmark which also marred the childhoods of his father, grandmother and great-grandmother. He believes his mark is a talisman, indicative of a larger destiny. As it turns out, the mark has also proven to be very important in the lives of those in his family who share it, and as Sol’s chapter ends his father Randall’s begins, the story zooming out twenty-two years earlier when Randall was also six years old. Randall’s story then leads into his mother Sadie’s, and Sadie’s into the final story of her own mother’s childhood, where at last the full dark significance of the birthmark is revealed.

Huston’s writing is spectacular here, and the translation must be remarkable because I certainly couldn’t tell the book had ever been intended to be in any language other than English. She divulges her clues slowly, piecemeal, offering tantalizing glimpses behind the curtain but never a view at the full picture. The reverse narrative, Huston’s method of pulling back, snapping into focus and then pulling back again is an incredibly effective device, as is her usage of six-year olds to tell the tale. The children build the story by deconstructing it into its tiniest pieces, and their fragmentary observations when placed all together are as illuminating as they are heartbreaking. Beautifully realized, poetic and emotionally rending without being the remotest bit sappy, I could not possibly recommend this novel enough.

Okay. Off to a good start. 99 more to go.


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