Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Book Tour: In the Land of the Living

If "women's lit" can be considered a legitimate genre of novel, then Austin Ratner's In the Land of the Living falls into its counterpart, what I am calling "dude lit." Here, we're given insight into the way the story's male characters think and react in the situations they encounter. As a woman used to all the connotations that come with women's lit, it was refreshing to read this different perspective.

Ratner's story is one about family. We start with Isidore who grew up with a distant and abusive father but made his own life—graduating Harvard, attending med school, marrying a wonderful and supportive woman. But Isidore has got a lot of anger, stemming from his unbalanced childhood. He's impetuous and flies off the handle, but his life feels a whole lot better than it once did. Of course, that doesn't last forever, and shortly after his two sons are born, Isidore is plagued with an incurable form of cancer.

The boys, Leo and Mack, grow up haunted by the events of their early lives. They're a textbook psychiatric case—consumed by a past they can't change, hindered from healthily moving forward. Their anger—at each other, at the world, at themselves—consumes their lives and ultimately destroys their relationship with each other. The story mostly follows Leo as he navigates through his adolescence and young adulthood, experiencing all the "firsts" that a young man should experience but with an insecurity about himself. Though his relationship with Mack is tenuous, at best, they're really the only people who can truly understand each other. In the Land of the Living focuses on these complicated relationships that are destructive yet indestructible. It's the dark side of strong, familial bonds—very "you can't live with it, can't live without it" sort of thing.

I'm not sure how much I actually enjoyed the process of reading this, for a couple reasons. The voice was unfamiliar; I felt a disconnect from the characters and never really felt there with them. And, it's dark. It shows the worst in people and how family doesn't always make everything better—sentiments that are far different everything I experience and believe to be true. But actually writing down this reflection on the book is helping me understand exactly why I felt somewhat uneasy while reading it. I said the voice was unfamiliar, and a lot of that may be just because the perspective was so new. I'm not used to reading about men's inner turmoils. It's a completely thought process, completely different attitude. Though the voices may be different from gender to gender, the troubles are universal. Ratner writes a complicated story on past and present shaping a person, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to experience a familiar story through a new voice.

This post is a TLC Book Tour stop—and this is only the beginning! The tour for In the Land of the Living continues through September 12th. Visit the tour page to learn more about the book and its author and follow the discussion on many more wonderful blogs.

1 comment:

HeatherTLC said...

I'm glad that you appreciated this book even if you didn't always enjoy the voice.

Thanks for being on the tour!