karen meisner (_stranger_here) wrote,
karen meisner

One For Sorrow

My first taste of Christopher Barzak's writing was the second story he published, called "Plenty".  It was lovely, straight-up fantasy and a pure-pleasure read; it wasn't until long afterward that I realized bits of it had stayed with me, had become new archetypes for how I thought about certain ideas.  The structure of the story seemed simple enough, written in a clear quiet style.  What caught at me was the truth around the edges, in the flawed humanity of the narrator, the timeless/modern conflicts of big city and small town, the appeal of roots vs wings.  I got the sense that here was a complex mind at work, choosing to write honestly from the heart.  That's a kind of writing that can't be faked; it has to come from an actual real-life generous heart and questing mind. 

This is why I will read anything Chris Barzak writes: because he creates magical worlds full of yearning and wonder and wounded people who know how to love, and shows us that we live there too.

Also, he's hella cute, and his karaoke technique is unstoppable.

Barzak's first novel, One For Sorrow, makes its debut in bookstores today.  From the Endicott Studio review by Midori Snyder:

Adam McCormick is a shy teenager, quietly existing on the fringes of his high school and his raucous working class family. Yet when the body of another student, Jamie Marks, is found murdered and buried by the railroad, Adam is moved by a sense of solidarity to visit the site of Jamie's lonely grave. Impulsively, Adam climbs into the grave and begins an intimate friendship with the ghost of the murdered boy.

This is a poignant and lyrical rites-of-passage novel, written with a gentle touch. Adam believes in loyalty, in love, and in compassion, but the world around him hardly seems to value such emotions. Adam's struggle for authenticity presents him with two possible directions: remain a boy and follow the ghost of Jamie Marks into oblivion, or brave the harder path toward adult life with all its complexities.

Barzak deftly combines the supernatural elements of the plot with the ambiguous realities of a small town: the pathos of his fractured working class family, the girlfriend who introduces him to sex and then betrays him, and even the ghosts: mild mannered like Jamie, or violent and spiteful like Frances, a girl who murdered her abusive father. Adam must learn how to negotiate such complicated unions without losing himself.

I can't wait to get my copy.  Barzak enthusiasts can read more about the man and myth over at The Mumpsimus, currently celebrating Barzak Day.
Tags: books, christopher barzak, fiction

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