How the Blessed Live by Susannah M.Smith

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis book was such an exception, nothing quite like I’ve ever read before. It was one of my selections for my #5startbrpredictions and though it wasn’t a 5 star read, I loved it and would highly recommend it. This novel has 59 ratings on Goodreads and definitely deserves more recognition. Part Egyptian myth, part Alice in Wonderland, it is a modern representation of the tale of Isis and Osiris.

Lucy and Levi are twins whose mother dies during childbirth and they are brought up by their father in a remote island off the coast of Ontario. The first half of the novel follows Lucy, as she tries to reinvent herself & her section is thematically inspired from Alice in Wonderland. She takes a job as the personal assistant for the ringmaster of The Holy Circus, a nightly show of humans with freakish, otherworldly talents. These fantastic creations are wonderfully whimsical, dark, and believable in spite of their incredulity – the lack of explanation for their existence actually heightens the illusion.

The second half follows Levi, and his section is definitely more Egyptian myth influenced. He is an art student in Montreal creating paper-mache mummified sculptures for an art installation. The novel, throughout, is interspersed with journal entries their grieving father writes to his dead wife which are profoundly moving and gives the backstory that pulls it all together.

The twins grow up in a childhood enthused in myth, legends and fairytales, only to be catapulted to different directions following a fissure in their fragile familial cocoon. Interweaving through mysterious gaps of the metaphysical and the magical, the characters set on independent journeys of self-discovery, only to get lost and find themselves again.

This book is only 166 pages in length, but it’s beautifully realised. It doesn’t focus on plot or characters even. It’s the themes, writing, emotions & the experience that lingers. It’s written in luminous prose. Not a single word wasted, every sentence exquisitely crafted, with the whole novel reading like one long poem. Despite its beauty, the ending left me confused and felt inadequate. It’s still one I’d highly recommend for just how unusually fascinating it is.

Rating: 4/5

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