Title:Q: A Novel
Author: Evan Mandery
Genre: Literary Fiction
Where I got it:The publisher, for review, through TLC Book Tours
I'm pretty into time travel. I think I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that I have some mixed feelings about science fiction as a genre. I don't really have mixed feelings about time travel. There is a lot of time travel in Evan Mandery's novel Q. I was pretty into Q.
So what is it about (besides, of course, time travel)? Q is the girlfriend of our narrator, a counter-historical novelist and academic. The two have a quirky romance and are planning their wedding, when a future version of the narrator shows up and tells him that he "must not marry Q." Thus begins a chain of interruptions and events that our narrator rides like a wave, all the while wondering if he has irrevocably altered the course of his life for the worse by leaving his one true love.
Q is part love story. And the love story is dear. I even shed a tear or two by the end. However, Q is also the kind of playful, postmodern novel that I personally love to read. It doesn't take itself too seriously, toying with its own conventions, filled with clever detail. I didn't like the narrator, in particular, but I was still rooting for him. I even thought I might have read his not-terribly-good novel, exploring how history might have changed if Sigmund Freud had pursued his early explorations into eel anatomy and reproduction. The novel explores history in a number of different ways as the narrator theorizes and lives the consequences of re-writing ones' narrative. These explorations reminded me of one of my favorite novels, Graham Swift's Waterland, although Mandery's approach is much less heavy, more humorous. The comparison on the cover to Vonnegut seems apt, although I would say there are some Palahniukian (I may have made that up) moments as well.
While a lot of the novel is cerebral and hip (which happens to be my thing), Mandery also reveals himself to be a sensualist through his divine descriptions of food, which would make any foodie's mouth water. Here's one:
"Here is a wild mushroom corn pudding with goat cheese and an herbed cream sauce," she says, pointing. "This is winter squash stuffed with curried pork. This is Vidalia onion casserole. Here is cranberry relish spiced with mincemeat and pecans. Here are fresh-baked sweet rolls. Here are plain sweet potatoes, just for you, just like your grandmother used to make...And finally, the piece de resistance." She walks to the oven, opens the door, and reveals the giant thirty-pound fowl. "The turkey is glazed with honey, stuffed with andouille sausage, bacon, croutons, apples, dried cranberries, and pears, and has been roasting slowly, upside down, for the past sixteen hours."
I flew through Q and enjoyed almost every moment. I was laughing out loud, and crying in the end. The clever linguistic play and the philosophical jaunts into the nature of time and quantum theory were fun, but weren't the whole of the book. Underneath there is a touching love story and an emotional exploration of how we make meaning in our lives and confront our aging selves. In the end, what really turned on the water works was the "Acknowledgements" page on which Mandery explores the relationships that mattered in his life. It isn't often that an "Acknowledgements" page makes me cry, so I was lucky that I stuck around and read this one, since I just wanted to keep reading this wonderful book. Highly recommended.