The Book of Form and Emptiness

A Novel

hardcover, 512 pages

English language

Published Sept. 20, 2021 by Viking.

ISBN:
978-0-399-56364-5
Copied ISBN!
OCLC Number:
1240264435

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4 stars (14 reviews)

After the tragic death of his beloved musician father, fourteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house--a sneaker, a broken Christmas ornament, a piece of wilted lettuce. Although Benny doesn't understand what these things are saying, he can sense their emotional tone; some are pleasant, a gentle hum or coo, but others are snide, angry and full of pain. When his mother, Annabelle, develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow more clamorous.

6 editions

Unsatisfying

3 stars

Content warning Spoilers for the ending

The ending made me mad (a danger of long books)

4 stars

The excruciatingly detailed build-up of these characters and their descents into mental illness felt careful and correct. But the turn toward healing did not work for me, as it was a deus ex machina. It was also, imo, an unhealthy and toxic framing for the teen. I loathed the "book" sections. They felt condescending and irritated tf out of me. I wanted this book to be about 200 pages less. It was hard to read that much pain and trauma for so long without any respite. My favorite part was the window (I cried) and the Coping Cards (but I was mad she sort of stopped talking about them as a healing mechanism later on when he needed them most).

(My reading notes full of spoilers and quotes are here: persephoneknits.dreamwidth.org/10493.html)

Review of 'The Book of Form and Emptiness' on 'Goodreads'

2 stars

(I’m in the minority here. My notes here are purely for my own purposes, for future recollection. They are not intended to sway you toward or against reading it, and you should, because everyone says it’s great).

It did not work for me. I tried, and kept trying, off and on over three months. Finally finished it in a solid push: yet another book this year that I wish I had DNF’ed. I just found it cringeworthy. The little boy evoked more pity than compassion. I sort of rooted for him, but he wasn’t interesting enough to actually care much about. His mother, though, not even that. I found her banal, a soulless waste of space, and am admitting that because I realize how poorly that reflects on me. I was fully aware of this failing of mine, actively curious about it, trying to find a way to develop compassion …

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Subjects

  • Fiction
  • Magical Realism
  • Fantasy
  • Contemporary

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