This was one of the longest books I have read in a while, and it can be a bit of a slog. The writing twist does help to keep things fresh but overall the book is a beating because it just never ends. 800+ pages on this bad boy and you feel every one of them.
Paul Auster uses these way too many pages to tell the story of young Archie Ferguson growing up in the 1960s, and he tells it four different times in four different ways. Each of the boys starts out roughly the same – living in Newark, mother is a photographer, father owns a small furniture store – but they begin to diverge from there. There’s no specific decision that you see young Ferguson make that causes the split, but there’s an introduction chapter and then the real work begins.
The chapters are numbered (1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 2.1, etc) but I never really figured out if the Fergusons ran in the same order. It was also tough to follow, especially in the beginning, exactly what had happened to each Ferguson. As the book develops there are a few bright defining moments for each that that help anchor the various Fergusons, but in the beginning you might really want to take notes.
It wasn’t that the book was bad or even uninteresting, but when the market is so saturated with novels about young white men growing up and experiencing Their Time, it can be a little exhausting to essentially read four of those at once. When there are so many good and different books to suggest to people, 4 3 2 1 won’t necessarily make my list.