Quick Reviews: All The Light We Cannot See


I'm inaugurating a new feature on this blog: quick reviews. 

If you're like me, there just isn't enough time to read. I'll post reviews here of things I've enjoyed. Perhaps it will help you to identify what to read next. I'd appreciate your returning the favor.

All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

Two children, one a blind daughter of a museum locksmith, the other an orphan boy transfixed by radio and conscripted into the service of Nazi Germany, stumble through the concluding days of World War II. What unites them is an overwhelming sense of decency, of pressing on in the name of loyalty, love and wonder despite all that works against these life-affirming forces.

It is impossible to read this book without falling in love with the children, and hoping somehow that they will find one another and live happily ever after. (Perhaps they do, but I am not going to spoil the plot for you.)

The father of the blind girl builds models of the areas in which they live, a sort of geographic Braille his daughter can study, the better to learn to navigate the world around her. She learns to travel on her own, tapping with her cane, and counting sewer grates to keep her bearings. I would have liked to learn more about how she experienced the world. At just the moment I thought I would come to experience the world as she does, though, Doerr's narrator describes the setting in terms that only a sighted person would use. Doerr could have written an entire book about her, but that would have been a different book.

Both children endure shattering losses. Indeed, futility closes in on them, driving them to the very depths of exhaustion and the seeming edge of hopelessness. Futility hovers always. "Why bother to make music when the silence and wind are so much larger? Why light lamps when the darkness will inevitably snuff them?" We are each of us the sum of our hopes; life is a gift we receive unbidden -- the wise among us cherish it. These children are wise.

This is a wonderful read. I'll be looking to see what Doerr does next. Reading a book like this reawakens your own sense of loss and longing in a world of hard places and hard times. It takes courage to live. These children are role models.

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