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Your Face in Mine: A Novel

Your Face in Mine: A Novel - Jess Row I got an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. And I'm having a little difficulty in rating this book. First of all, the main subject of the book, as described in its blurb, is weird. Strangely, enticingly weird. But it's not the only thing going on in this story. There are lots of other layers, almost making me feel, in the end, that there was a little too much in here to be handled well. You would think that there's a lot in there about the difference between being white and black in America. And there's some of that, but not to the depth I expected at the outset. It's not so much a cultural/society book as it is about individual longings, longing to belong to a group that isn't naturally our own, that is out of reach because it requires a different appearance. If you could be of any ethnicity you wanted, what would you choose? How would that affect the meaning of that ethnicity? The main character in this book, Kelley, has a lot going on, a lot of baggage to deal with. He's kind of a mess. And he doesn't really work through it all in the course of the story. In fact, I would say that the whole book is a little messy. Big, ambitious, and messy. I suppose many of us have lives that are messy. But it makes for a mixed reading experience.

With regard to the plot, I started thinking that Kelley was sane and that Martin was crazy but harmless. And I ended up thinking Kelley was crazy and perhaps a danger to himself, and that Martin was crazy and sinister. So dealing with the insanity became the focus of my reading, rather than any larger cultural questions.

I did have a little bit of difficulty with the writing style of the author. Specifically, his tendency not to use quotation marks or paragraph breaks to clarify his dialogue made the book difficult to read with no clear advantage. It's art for art's sake, but actually gets in the way of the story.

I guess what I'd say is that this book is good, but not quite all the way there yet. Like my first attempt at a new dish that tastes okay, but not amazing, that needs a little work to make it all come together. But I eagerly anticipate the next try -- I would definitely read this author again. And the book is worth recommending for the sake of the discussion it can engender.