The Way the Family Got Away by Michael Kimball

Critics loved this book. For example, Angus Wolfe Murray from ‘The Scotsman’ said: ‘Occasionally a novel by a new writer will cause critics to choke with excitement. This is one.’

For me, though, the style got in the way of the story which is too bad because the story was kinda sad.

A family (mother, father, boy and girl) set off in their car from Mineola, Texas to Gaylord. They have all their worldly possessions in that car, including the body of the infant they lost to yellow fever. As they travel they sell/exchange their things in exchange for gas. They are going to Bompa’s house (one can assume this is a grandparent).

What makes this story odd (and I guess critics would say amazing) is that the story’s narrators are the two remaining children,  both of them very young.

“My brother’s fever wouldn’t leave him or our house,” the little boy says.

His sister says: “The sun-color got too bright and too inside and under my little brother’s skin until it burned his insides out inside his crib.”

What follows is a strange narration which flips between the brother and sister as their parents navigate their way from town to town in an effort to escape their grief.

I think your enjoyment of the novel will depend on your willingness to fall into the strange rhythm of their language.

For me, it just didn’t work. And I hate it when a book makes me feel as though I didn’t get it. Like- if I was smarter this would make sense and I could jump on the bandwagon with all the smart critics…one of whom actually said “you can’t read if you can’t read this book.”

I can read the words, thanks. They just didn’t move me.

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