Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Musings: The Book of Everything

The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer
I was lucky enough to win a copy of The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer from Iris recently.  I was so excited to win as I have had this book on my wish list for years.  So obviously, when I received a copy of the book, it rocketed to the top of my TBR list.

For a novel that claims to be about everything, the book is really quite short - only about 120 pages long.  I read it in one sitting on a Sunday evening.  It is about Thomas, a 9-year-old boy with a loving mother, a determined sister, a kind neighbor, a beautiful love interest, and an abusive father.  He also chats with Jesus Christ daily.  With the help of all these supportive people, Thomas learns to stand up for himself and his family.

There are a lot of wonderful things about this book.  Thomas is a kind and thoughtful boy who is well able to understand the complexities of situations that surround him.  He understands that his father is cruel because he is frightened, that he uses religion as a guard against his own repressed feelings.  He loves his mother and wants her to blossom into who she wants to be.  He realizes that his sister isn't silly, but is smart and determined.  And while he says that he longer believes in God, he enjoys his conversations with Jesus Christ, who agrees with Thomas that life can be horrible and that bad people are not always punished.

Iris mentioned in her review that one of the greatest strengths of this book is that it is populated by many strong, wonderful female characters.  This is so true - the women are fantastic, and all in different ways.  Thomas' mother is strong in that she puts up with horrible physical abuse so that she can be a mother to her two children.  His aunt is strong because she left her husband when he beat her.  His neighbor is strong because she sees Thomas suffering and makes it her business to help him and his family.  His crush is strong because instead of laughing at and teasing a young boy who's in love with her, she is kind and sweet to him in a way few teenagers ever are.

There's also a strong theme of religious symbolism in this book.  Thomas' father is a very strict man who believes that no book but the Bible is worth anyone's time, and he uses his faith as an excuse to cover his weaknesses.  In contrast, Thomas claims at the beginning to be an atheist, but he and his sister find ways of using the Bible to show their father just how wrong his views are.  I really liked this aspect of the story.  I wouldn't say that this is a religious story by any means, but it was wonderful to see so many nuances to religion presented in such a short book.

This was a lovely book that covers a lot of themes.  Easy to read in one sitting, but likely to keep you thinking for a long time after that.

Thanks so much to Iris for providing me with my copy of this book!

6 comments:

  1. Oh I do not know, but I do like that they find ways there to show their dad that he is wrong

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  2. I agree with the above, it's interesting when points to the contrary are found and discussed. I like the balance the good characters seem to create against the bad, it sounds something that would encourage all those pause for thought moments.

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  3. Terrific review -- this sounds like a rich, character driven book. My daughter read it several years ago, and it really didn't work for her. But I may give it a go. :-)

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  4. I've never heard of this book, but I think I would really enjoying it. Thanks for the review :)

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  5. Oh wow! This does sound like something that I would like, not only for the strong female characters, but for the aspects of religion that are not stereotypical and not overdone. I've been known to talk to Jesus myself now and then, so Thomas and I sound like we could be friends :)

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  6. I can't believe I never left a comment on this post! I'm so glad you liked this. I'm afraid I pushed it rather unrelentlessly during Dutch Lit Month, but it was definitely my favourite book of said month. I'm so happy it didnd't disappoint.

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