Eddie Signwriter, by Adam Schwartzman. Published 2010 by Random House. Literary Fiction.
Eddie Signwriter is an artful, elegant novel from poet Adam Schwartzman, a writer originally from South Africa. The story centers around a scandal: a teenage love affair leads to the death of prominent community member Nana Oforiwaa, and young Eddie and Celeste are held responsible. Eddie goes to live with his uncle; a gifted artist, Eddie learns the trade of sign painting from a neighbor. But he can't get away from his past or his sense of guilt, and he flees northward through Dakar to Paris, where, hopefully, freedom and redemption await.
This is the kind of novel that readers of literary fiction wait for. Schwartzman has published three volumes of poetry and shows a real gift for both language and storytelling in this captivating little volume. I didn't know Schwartzman was a poet when I picked up Eddie Signwriter but I can't say I was surprised, given his ear for the cadences of spoken language and vivid description, of the settings, of Eddie's artwork and the delicate and complex emotional states of the characters. Themes explored include freedom, love and the power of art, as well as some politics I missed, but I'm guessing that this is the kind of book that will reward a second or a third read-through- which I plan to give it.
You can probably tell by now, but I loved Eddie Signwriter. I attended Schwartzman's reading at the Harvard Book Store last night and really enjoyed hearing him talk about his book- I only wish I had prepared a question of my own. When I think about what I love about the book, I think about the beautiful final scene between Eddie and his uncle where so much is said with so little, how regret and sorrow and love and redemption share the small space between them. I really hope Eddie Signwriter gets the attention it deserves, and finds the readers who'll love it as much as I did.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.