Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Review: THE ALL OF IT, by Jeannette Haien
So a week ago legendary author/bookstore owner Ann Patchett made a last-minute appearance at the bookstore where I work. The event was packed and she was terrific- funny, charismatic and polished. As part of the event she recommended a couple of her favorite books, including this little gem, The All of It, which she was influential in getting republished and for which she wrote the introduction. Naturally everyone scooped it up, myself included.
The All of It is a short novel, really a novella, about a priest named Father Declan and his relationship with a couple, Enda and Kevin, in midcentury Ireland. Kevin is dying as the book opens, and he has a last secret to share, but he passes before he can let it out. So Enda tells him "the all of it," the secret behind her and Kevin's longstanding relationship. She spills the secret quickly so that some readers might look at the 125-odd pages that remain and say, "well, I know the big thing, why should I finish?" The reason to finish is Jeannette Haien's luminous prose and the meditations that follow on the nature of love, life and empathy.
The All of It is a novel to read by the fireplace in an afternoon, with a cup of cocoa and a blanket. It will shake you up emotionally but it will comfort you, too; pondering Enda's revelation and its implications, watching Father Declan sort out his complicated feelings towards this enigmatic woman and enjoying the last few pages of suspense are what make this novel great even after the twist has come and gone. It's deceptive in its simplicity, a novel that isn't even really about what you think it's about when you first open its pages. It's a book I'd recommend to just about any reader, too.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.