I thought I was prepared for this novel. Wrong. And that is actually a good thing, because any amount of surprise and extra rumination is warranted for this ambitious novel. I am still processing how I feel about these characters and this book as a whole. But I can say this: it is worth it.
Mickey and Hal meet cute in Italy and find that they have enough in common that they can form one of those fast and firm friendships that come out of nowhere but are so integral to our lives. When they head back to Seattle to resume their respective career paths, the ethos and cultural ennui prods them to create a monthly art installation under the aegis of The Encyclopaedists. These meta hipster attempts at irony would get old real fast if not for the creative frame of this book. Hal is headed to Boston University f0r Grad School and Mickey is getting ready to fulfill his commitment to the National Guard and serve for a year in Iraq. The clock is ticking and things will have to change real fast. While the sections divided up between Hal in Boston and Mickey in Iraq could be jarring and disjointed, they were broken up by small periods where the women in the book got to have their small say, slowly fleshing out this journey. Add to that the gimmicky but apt Wikipedia entries and you’ve got a whole lot of crazy stuff going on and in this controlled chaos there is a certain grace.
“You make decisions; some are reversible and are not; and they have consequences that are both bad and good. Nothing is pure. Nothing is easy. When she settled into sleep, she did so uncertain of what her world would be upon waking, her mind circling the suspicion that there was a deep relationship between uncertainty and beauty,”