The Hero of This Book

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve written discussion questions for this book – free for you or for your book club. Questions will open on a new tab.

The Hero of This Book book cover
Elizabeth McCracken 2022

Is it a memoir or is it a novel? This stream-of-consciousness narrative flows between past and present at the speed of thought.

The Hero of This Book is thought, reflection, and reminiscence about the narrator’s recently deceased mother. Most of the action is interior (memory and observation) with little dialogue outside of the author’s remembered conversations with the woman who, while physically tiny, had a presence that was larger than life.

So why didn’t I get it?

Theoretically a novel, it reads like a memoir, in spite of the author’s protests that this isn’t the case. The line between reality and story eventually blurs and then disappears altogether, and soon I’m reading text that looks a lot like the eulogy my sister wrote and read at my own mother’s funeral.

In the end, I decided to let go of the need to understand the mystery. Relaxing into an appreciation of the writing itself, I admired the shape and form of this painting without quite recognizing its subject. It helps that the author provides some anchors: repetition, a recurring “conjugation” motif, and just one present-day geographical location.

The Hero of this Book is probably a five-star book, but my confusion dampened my enjoyment, so four stars it is. (I never said my reviews were objective, but they are honest.)

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