Wilson’s debut novel recounts the strange, elliptical journey of a man on the run from the law and his philosophical musings about love, truth, and travel itself.
No one is better prepared to analyze the faults of society than an outsider, especially if he doesn't have a permanent address, occupation, or even a name. This novel’s tale is told from the first-person perspective of one such man: a narrator who shiftily introduces himself as Barry (“My name is, say, Barry. No, really, that is my name. Barry. Barry, uhhh, Klassen”) and continues to switch names throughout. It’s the chronicle of a fugitive who not only journeys across the North American continent, but across the bounds of human connection itself. At various points, he finds himself in Los Angeles, on a waterless journey up a steep desert road in the blazing sun, and on a city bus in a tourist-heavy part of Mexico. Along the way, he evades bounty hunters, corrupt transportation officials, and the conventions of polite society. In this sense, the narrator is an “island” unto himself; he’s free from humanity, or at least he feels like he’s escaping the “globalized little ubercocoon” that insulates modern man from the primal rigors of the natural world. His philosophical musings about truth act as the novel’s thematic throughline; in one extended section, he discusses the dulling of humanity’s basic senses in favor of a seemingly kinder, gentler world: “Our ancestors had a different word for bear, but they were so afraid of bears that they refused even to say this word and it became taboo.” The narrator’s overt condescension and hints of animalistic rage give the book an engaging tension. It almost manages to make up for the book’s overall lack of narrative structure. Overall, the writing is gripping and the concepts intriguing, if not always politically correct; however, the story itself is weak, serving more as a travelogue than a formalized narrative arc. Regardless, Wilson will hold readers’ attention, as he paints an unusual portrait that bristles with authenticity.
A loosely organized but intriguing novel about what it means to be part of a society and how one’s choices shape one’s perceptions and direction.