Thursday, February 13, 2014

The vast gray area between right and wrong

Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork, will definitely be in the running this year for best cover.  This book really took over blogosphere when it came out, so I've been wanting to read it for a while.  At first, I didn't really enjoy the audiobook version because the narrator seemed very stiff and did not inflect his voice much.  But then I realized that the narrator was speaking in the way that Marcelo, the main character, would speak.  Marcelo has a form of autism close to Asperger's, and it is difficult for him to put inflection into his words.  After that, I decided that the narrator was quite good!

Marcelo in the Real World is about Marcelo's first real job, working in the mail room at his father's highly successful, cutthroat law firm.  The law firm defends large corporations in liability suits, so there are a lot of gray areas and difficult situations.  You would expect these to stay out of the mail room, but you'd be wrong.  Much like the other book by Stork I have read, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, this novel seems like it would be pretty easy to follow, with few nuances.  But that's just absolutely not true.

Stork doesn't take the easy way out, letting Marcelo learn about the world by getting lost and terrified or by achieving small victories.  No, Marcelo confronts very complex office politics, the barriers of the class system, moral ambiguity on a huge scale, the fine points of the law, the knowledge that his father has feet of clay, and so, so much more.  He faces a serious ethical dilemma, helped along by a beautiful woman that everyone finds very attractive except, perhaps, for him.  And through it all, he really stays true to himself and his character in a way that is just wonderful to read.  Truly a fantastic read - I highly recommend it!


  1. What an intriguing review. I'm adding this to my list. It seems to me that lately there have been more books presenting protagonists with mental illnesses which is something I really like reading. I'm hoping we'll see more books with female protagonists soon. Given the stereotypes relating to women and competency/agency, I think there would be so many interesting things to write about. - Elle

  2. The last book I read narrated by a character with autism was amazing so I will definitely check this one out.

  3. How interesting! Your comments bring to mind two other books - Elizabeth Moon's The Power of Dark (for the challenges of the workplace environment) and also, not for reasons of story in any way, Helen DeWitt's Lightning Rods (just because I thought the narrator was absolutely AWFUL and then I realized he was absolutely AMAZING and so spot-on that I wanted to listen again). Will keep an eye out for this one: thanks!

    1. The Elizabeth Moon book went right onto my wish list! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  4. Anonymous2/14/2014

    There were a few things about this book that I thought were a little glib, but overall I thought it was great. I loved how nuanced the author was about the characters and the nice things about them and the bad things about them.

  5. Yay! I'm so glad that you enjoyed this one! I read it a few years ago and it's time for a reread.

  6. I have strangely been thinking about this book, even though it's been quite a while since I read it. I want to read it again because I remember loving it so much. Also that cover!

  7. I heard a lot about this too a while ago and then promptly forgot about it. I will have to read it - I like the sound of it.

  8. I really like the premise of this one, and yes, that book cover is gorgeous!


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