Review: One Rainy Day in May by Mark Z. Danielewski (The Familiar #1)


From the author of the international best seller House of Leaves and National Book Award–nominated Only Revolutions comes a monumental new novel as dazzling as it is riveting. The Familiar (Volume 1) ranges from Mexico to Southeast Asia, from Venice, Italy, to Venice, California, with nine lives hanging in the balance, each called upon to make a terrifying choice. They include a therapist-in-training grappling with daughters as demanding as her patients; an ambitious East L.A. gang member contracted for violence; two scientists in Marfa, Texas, on the run from an organization powerful beyond imagining; plus a recovering addict in Singapore summoned at midnight by a desperate billionaire; and a programmer near Silicon Beach whose game engine might unleash consequences far exceeding the entertainment he intends. At the very heart, though, is a twelve-year-old girl named Xanther who one rainy day in May sets out with her father to get a dog, only to end up trying to save a creature as fragile as it is dangerous . . . which will change not only her life and the lives of those she has yet to encounter, but this world, too—or at least the world we think we know and the future we take for granted.

(With full-color illustrations throughout.) 

The Familiar is undeniably the most unusual book I’ve ever read. It sets out to be something groundbreaking that turns the traditional guidelines of storytelling on it’s head and it accomplishes just that. It’s unconventionality extends to it’s narration, to the design of the book, and even to the subject matter.

It is essentially a collection of mostly stream of consciousness narrations from a whole cast of characters spanning the globe, all living through the same rainy day in May. Just normal people going about their daily lives. It was fascinating to really get into the heads of the characters as the way their thoughts are organized on the pages mirrors the way they think. Some of the characters even speak other languages such as Mexican making for a very interesting read. It a much more exciting reading experience than simply reading pages with traditional linear lines of text.

Be warned though, you have to follow all of these characters plot arcs so its best if you read this book in as short a time span as possible. My favourite character by far is Xanther, but I was equally interested in reading everyone’s sections. You’re never really a hundred percent sure what’s going on and I felt pretty lost some of the time; prepare yourself for existential and esoterical discussions and you may want to keep a dictionary on hand.

If you have read the book, you’ll understand what I mean when I say you are left with some crazy puzzle pieces that you aren’t quite sure fit together and a lot of questions. It definitely makes you want to read book two to (hopefully) figure out what’s going on.

Recommended to readers who enjoy multiple POVs and books that are unusual and unconventional.

familiar 1

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