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Necessary Errors

Necessary Errors - Caleb Crain This is, as far as I can tell, a pretty realistic story of an American just out of college who goes to live in Prague for a year and have an Experience. And, like in most cases, he does. He grows into his own skin, as you have to do at that age, he meets some interesting people, and maybe some not-so-interesting people, he sees a bunch of foreign stuff, learns to speak Czech, and tries to get to the bottom of the character of the people he's visiting and his own character. Nobody gets killed or kidnapped, there's no chase scene or sociopath or even a monstrous epiphany. He's having an Experience.

And it's a pretty good experience. I read this book slowly. It was easy to put down but also easy to pick up again, and I found that it took me about 100 pages to really get into it, but after that I put it down less and less often. The author was never in a hurry to introduce me to the characters. I got to know them slowly, through what they said and did, as the protagonist knew them, and this particular protagonist did not grill them on their childhood experiences or most cherished fantasies. They just hung out together in cafes and talked. The intimacy of the group of expats formed slowly, not through trauma or forced confidences. So I felt the book to be realistic, enjoyable, and honest. The characters were human. But yeah, it wasn't an exciting book. But life in general is not terribly exciting either. It's interesting, sometimes beautiful, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes confusing, and always worth engaging.

I don't know very much about Prague except some outline points of history, so I learned quite a bit from the characterization of the city itself and the timing of the book in 1990. The writing style is very straightforward, almost disengaged, but I got used to it and really enjoyed it in the end. I'm not sure what else to say about this book, and I'm not sure that what I've said makes it sound worth reading, but I'm very glad I happened to pick it up on a whim in a bookstore, and I'm deeply appreciative of the experience it's given me.