Robert Altman, one of my favorite filmmakers, is gone, but the idea of telling a story about interconnected lives lives on in the new novel, The Illusion of Separateness. Simon Van Booy takes this type of storytelling into new global and inter-generational territory. The result is a slim, beautifully-written book made up of seemingly discrete chapters focused on a handful of unique, compelling, and lonely or isolated characters, all somehow intersecting and providing clues to another life.
There’s the young man who works in a retirement home, an injured veteran, a blind twenty-something woman, a 10-year-old child, a grandfather. Most of the characters are men, but women play a major role in their lives. So does the legacy of war, and memory, and romance. Not since Nicole Krauss’ History of Love have I read of such profound connections across age and history. This is a book about little miracles, or random acts of selflessness, and about our search for interconnection.
Parenting is a key theme that runs throughout these lives and generations. Perhaps this is no surprise, as this is a universal life theme, and the book was largely written while the author was a single father.
I finished the book, and then started again. The combined story of these lives was breathtaking and uplifting, and I couldn’t get enough.