A young man reflects on life and love in this novel from a veteran author.
Like many 27-year-olds, Games Shepard is not quite sure what he wants out of life or what his purpose on Earth is. When Garbisch’s (The Shore, 2012, etc.) sprawling story opens, Games is attending a mountaintop memorial service for a friend. There, he meets Rianna, and the two embark on a tentative romance. As he and Rianna negotiate the contours of their budding relationship, Games tries out different jobs and ponders his choices. “I’m tired of all this aloneness I feel,” he muses early on. Over 12 chapters, the author gives free rein to Games’ ruminations on life, which are paired with stories from 12 people who the philosophically minded protagonist encounters in his ramblings—and which are often more compelling than his own prosaic adventures. Readers of a similar questioning bent will delight in following his journey of self-discovery, though the less patient may be frustrated by the tale’s sweeping, discursive style. References to literature, mythology, film, and psychology abound. Two characters talk “Jungianly, reaching into symbols and the primitive unconscious,” while another drops a mysterious box of books on Games’ doorstep, accompanied by a note referencing a Yeats poem. Garbisch also delights in wordplay, as characters repeatedly misunderstand one another’s meaning and reflect on the similarity of certain terms and phrases: “I had a selfish purpose…I wanted to bring the newcomer out of his shell. Selfish, shell—I seem to be playing with words, but I’m not,” notes one. At times, these language games are amusing or revealing, though they’re just as often distracting. Dialogue is written without quotation marks; some readers may miss the punctuation marks, though their absence works with the ambitious book’s stream-of-consciousness style. Garbisch also has a keen eye for detail and the ability to find magic in the mundane, as when Games and Rianna are described as “scattering playfulness like sunflower seeds throughout their conversations.”
A complex book asks big questions and rewards those who are willing to go along for the ride.