What if our pain was the most beautiful thing about us? In the aftermath of a fatal car accident, a private journal of love notes written by a husband to his wife passes into the keeping of a hospital patient, and from there through the hands of five other suffering people, touching each of them uniquely. I love the soft blue veins on your wrist. I love your lopsided smile. I love watching TV and shelling sunflower seeds with you.
The six recipients - a data analyst, a photojournalist, a schoolchild, a missionary, a writer, and a street vendor - inhabit an acutely observed, beautifully familiar yet particularly strange universe, as only Kevin Brockmeier could imagine it: a world in which human pain is expressed as illumination, so that one's wounds glitter, fluoresce, and blaze with light. As we follow the journey of the book from stranger to stranger, we come to understand how intricately and brilliantly they are connected, in all their human injury and experience.
The Illumination is a work of sheer imagination laid over the gritty reality of modern life. In beautiful sentences, with startling images of injuries, bodies, color and light, Brockmeier creates a symphony in six movements that brings a reader face to face with life in all its harsh reality and unlimited possibility. (Reviewed by Judy Krueger).
A capable writer, Brockmeier... succeeds in describing the depressing circumstances of the characters, along with passing observations of a fragmentary and disorienting nature. Some readers may find this uplifting and inspiring, but others will feel pained by the suffering the novel seeks to illuminate.
Starred Review. Brockmeier's spectacular latest... gives readers an inspiring take on suffering and the often fleeting nature of connection.
Starred Review. This is a radiant, bewitching, and profoundly inquisitive novel of sorrow, perseverance, and wonderment.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by lynette collins Loved it! Kevin Brockmeier is a master at storytelling. Each one of his books is better than the last and "The Illumination" is no exception. You feel that you are right there with each of his characters. This is a must read.
Kevin Brockmeier has received the Borders Original Voices Award, three O. Henry Awards (one, a first prize), the PEN USA Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an NEA Grant. He was also named one of Granta Magazine's "Best Young American Novelists". He is known for his imaginative interpretations of modern life, his emphasis on the wonders around us, and the power of human connection. Illumination is his fifth novel; here's a look at some of his other works:
Things That Fall From the Sky (2002): Weaving together loss and anxiety with fantastic elements and literary sleight-of-hand, this collection of short stories views the nagging realities of the world through a hopeful lens. One of the stories, "The Ceiling," won an O Henry Award in 2000.
Celebrated novelist Francisco Goldman married a beautiful young writer named Aura Estrada in the summer of 2005. Two years later she died of a tragic accident. Say Her Name is a love story, a bold inquiry into destiny and accountability, and a tribute to Aura, who she was and who she would have been.
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