Monday, February 28, 2011

ABC by David Plante

Released: August 2007

David Plante is surprisingly prolific and although I haven't found a website dedicated solely to Plante, I was able to learn from various resources that he is most widely known for The Family (1978). ABC has been on the recommended reading list for Dreamworld Book Reviews since its release; however the source that recommended it has been long forgotten.

ABC is a tale about the mourning of Gerard Chauvin, a father who loses his son to a freak accident in an old abandoned house while vacationing at a lake. Moments before his son's tragic accident, Gerard picks up a random piece of paper from the floor, which happens to contain the Sanskrit alphabet. As Gerard tries to come to terms with his son's random death, he becomes obsessed with learning about the history of the alphabet, trying desperately to find some correlation or coincidence between the accident and the alphabet. Gerard then embarks on a manic journey to find these "answers" and learn everything he can about the history of the ABCs.

ABC is definitely one of the most original and unique pieces of literature I've ever read; however half of the novel is memorable while the other half is easily forgettable.

At first, directly after his son Harry's accident, ABC grows weary with details about Gerard's mourning and grief, when all of a sudden the novel takes an intriguing turn. Gerard revisits the "scene of the crime" so to speak, and we learn that Harry's accident was actually set up on purpose by the local kids who use the old deserted house as a hangout. Gerard becomes obsessed with the question of "Why?" when pondering how the daily, normal lives of others can have such a large, grand butterfly effect. Once Gerard learns that the piece of paper with the Sanskrit alphabet was left behind a local girl who uses the old house to study in, his journey is in full effect, and the novel is once again brought to life.

Although the dictionary entries and blurbs about the alphabet throughout ABC are tedious and tiring, the novel redeems itself on the subject on mourning and on coping with death as a whole. I was particularly touched by Catherine's descent and tirade into mourning her daughter. Catherine has many great points when speaking to Gerard about love and death. ABC may be the perfect novel for the griever; it's definitely very touching and brings to light validities one normally wouldn't consider unless you lost a person to an accident of sorts.

David Plante's newest book is his own memoir on grief called The Pure Lover (2010).

                                             The Pure Lover: A Memoir of Grief

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