Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Kings and Queens of Roam by Daniel Wallace

She felt like she was finally becoming human, because out of all the life on Earth this is the one thing only people do. What other animal tells stories? Or more important what other animal listens?

Big Fish is one my favorite movies and a few years ago I read the book. I liked the book, but preferred the movie. However, that didn't mean I didn't want to read more books by Daniel Wallace...the idea of tall tales is still one I like a lot and so I was glad to dig into his new book which promised to be that.

And it is. The world in the pages of The Kings and Queens of Roam feels so realized despite the fact that it is also so ridiculous. There's nothing in the story itself that makes it feel less than real despite its craziness. It helps that Wallace's writing is so beautiful, I stopped to reread several sentences. It's pretty and melancholy and feels effortless and flows. And this is a tall tale--so it's not like it's a deep character study, but it hardly matters because I was still able to recognize truth in it.

Which is what I love about these kinds of stories about stories. The Kings and Queens of Roam is not just about two sisters one seeing and ugly and one blind and beautiful, or about a town named Roam that was founded for the creation of fine silk using what amounted to Chinese slavery by a man named Elijah McAllister. It's about stories themselves. The stories we tell each other and the stories we tell ourselves and how these stories shape our perception of the world. In a sense, we create our own kind of reality in our stories and they can alter the course of our lives.

It's about more, too, the burden of knowledge, the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children, the way our external appearance affects our internal reality, and home. I don't want to sum up the story at all because it's best discovered on its own, I think.

I will say that it jumps around and tells bits and pieces in different places--from the history of Roam to the present day. There's a gentle humor as well.

The Kings of Queens of Roam is populated with bizarre and memorable characters, it's a world fully unto itself, the writing is achingly beautiful, and reading it is an experience I'm glad I had.

Rating: 4.5/5
Source of Book: Review Copy received from Publisher
Publisher: Touchstone (Simon & Schuster)


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