“What I think is that life is full of memories, stories and facts, and we push our way through them – and now and then, we pluck one, pull on the seam and make that responsible for everything.”
I honestly don’t even know how to begin talking about this book. I have so many thoughts about it, totally disjointed, and the idea of structuring them into something readable is daunting. I was unsure of this book at first, but after a while I was falling more in love with it with every passing chapter.
From the beginning, you as a reader can honestly not tell where this book is heading. Not at all. After a mysterious letter leads a group of seemingly unconnected people to a retreat, where a select few will learn the secrets of human flight, how much do you utilise the suspension of disbelief? After all, none of the people there believe in what they’re studying, so why should you. But there is always a tiny hint of “but, what if?” hiding in the background.
So yes, this book is about the theory of human flight. But god, it’s about so much more than that.
Light-hearted ridiculousness has been perfectly balanced by Moriarty with gut-punching devastation. When this book hits hard, it hits hard. Abigail, the narrator, has a tone similar to that of characters such as Kimmy Schmidt and Eleanor Oliphant – and the almost naive outlook that these characters share is mirrored also in the trauma under the surface.
The exploration of self-help books is a potent theme throughout the story. “The Guidebook”, non-chronological chapters of which Abigail had been receiving through the post since she was a teenager, is what draws the key group of characters together, after all. The outlandishness of the book’s purpose – to teach humans how to soar through the sky like birds – lends to the satirical nature of this exploration. And yet, the story also feels – to me, at least – like a kind of homage, too. A cautious one. Via The Guidebook and various other self-help books, and also via her critique of them, Abigail goes on a journey of self-discovery throughout the story.
The final few chapters were so painfully honest, and one scene especially had me particularly choked up with its naked depiction of emotions, long-buried, suddenly surfacing in the most brutal way.
Summing up this book is impossible, but to me the most striking theme is the exploration of past trauma – particularly trauma that has not had its closure.
I definitely recommend this book, regardless of whether talks of “human flight” and “self-help” have put you off. Go into it with an open mind, because it will take you on a journey.
(An ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thoughts are my own.)