ABCDEFG.

This looks like my kind of book:

ABC might have been subtitled "Difficult Letters," dealing as it does with Gerard Chauvin’s sudden obsession with the origins of the alphabet. The novel opens with a terrifying, heartrending scene in which Gerard and his wife, Peggy, witness the death of their 6-year-old son, Harry, when the child plunges through the floor of an abandoned house during a sunlit summer outing. Moments before Harry’s fall, Gerard notices a scrap of paper in the fireplace of the ruined building.

"On the top of the heap, not crumpled, was a sheet of writing, and Gerard leaned closer to try to decipher the meaning. He couldn’t, and he reached down to pick it up. Frowning, he saw what he assumed must be letters, but he had no idea in what script, because it was not any he was familiar with. The letters were drawn very carefully, maybe by a child."

In the months that follow, Gerard grows increasingly estranged from Peggy. He is compelled to ask again and again the unanswerable question that surrounds his son’s death: Why?

But that question gradually becomes subsumed into one he asks his wife as he broods about the scrap of paper with its indecipherable writing: "Have you ever wondered why the alphabet is set up the way it is? . . . Why does it start with A B C and not F D Q? Who arranged it the way it is, and when?" Gerard’s obsession leads him back to the abandoned house where his son died. There he discovers that Harry’s death was the result of a malicious act, no less terrible for being random. In the wake of this knowledge, Gerard’s grief-driven detachment begins to resemble a sort of madness. He remains aware of his past and his identity, but neither bears any meaning for him now: He sheds them as though they were ruined clothing. His actions become dictated by impulse, by a sense of predestination that propels the novel more, and far more affectingly, than any conventional plot does.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s