River City Reading

Helping readers of literary, contemporary and historical fiction find their next great book.
The Afterlife of Emerson Tang - Paula Champa This book. It's a good one. It's good in that strange way where you're not sure about it until you look back at the incredible passages you've highlighted and think about the people you want to recommend it to.

It's also one of those rare cases where I think the blurb can do a better job of describing the premise of without spoiling than I can.

While this is a novel that revolves around a car, it is not a novel about a car. Instead, it is a search for answers and purpose while facing loss. The details of the story are a bit ambitious, particularly for how lovely Champa's writing is. Unfortunately, I think some readers may have a hard time following the trajectories of the characters and could give up before they get to passages like this:

"Maybe because I have the soul of an archivist, my experience of death was echoed in the sensations I came to feel whenever I entered a magnificent museum or library. In the silence, the immense silence of those vaults, there was not a nothingness but an encompassing orderliness - a clean, systematic transfer of data, the movement from artifact to archive. And within the vast halls of that ancient, etheric library resided the great metaphysical archive, the record of every thought, action and utterance impressed upon the ether. The immortal being of every human being. It was more than complete. It was the absence of any lack. In this perfection, the experience of peace was total."

It was the absence of any lack. I sat on the beach in my lounge chair and read that line six or seven times before I moved on. I think it's stunning.

I started drawing parallels between this and a recent read that had me struggling with tears. The Afterlife of Emerson Tang has such beautiful subtlety. I don't need to be destroyed with tears to feel the emotion of the characters, but I do want really gorgeous writing that I can look back on and appreciate. Paula Champa definitely delivers.

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