Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

Wolf in White Van made me ache. It resonated in deeply personal ways, that were tough to face head-on but impossible to ignore. John Darnielle’s writing is magnificent. I love the Mountain Goats beyond measure, so I experienced some hesitancy over whether the book could live up to my expectations, but I needn’t have worried. As mesmerising as it is melancholy, Darnielle’s words flow with a raw truth and honesty that’s almost poetic in places.

Our protagonist here is Sean, creator of a Choose Your Own Adventure game who was significantly disfigured at the age of seventeen. Events unfold slowly in near-reverse, to the point that the book may merit a repeat read back-to-front. It begins (ends?) on a hopeful note, but also delves into some bleak places. The characters are few, but those who feature prominently dance around the idea of surrender as the ultimate success, perpetual, pointless foward motion being the only alternative.

Sean’s view of the world is often fragmented, his memories of an uncertain nature. He toys with the idea of splinter universes, and imagined realities as an escape from the ordinary. Anyone who has ever spent a little too much time living inside their own mind can’t fail to feel a kinship of sorts. It’s not only Dungeons and Dragons nerds who will understand the lure of Sean’s kingdom.

[Read from 27-28 September 2016]

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