I am Radar, by Reif Larsen

I am Radar Book Cover I am Radar
Reif Larsen
Literary fiction
Random House UK
27 March 2015

Reif Larsen wrote The selected works of T.S. Spivet, and because of that, I needed to have I am Radar sitting there on the front page on my kindle for a long time before I could bring myself to open it.

In the... not-negative way of things, you see.  It's because that previous novel, the story about the young cartographer from Montana, was such a knock-out.  I wasn't prepared to get as immersed and involved and sad as I did - it isn't unusual for me to react visibly (and audibly) to books, but T.S. was an overload.

In the end, a few weeks later than I had planned, I felt ready to start on I am Radar.

Like the author's previous novel, this one is odd.  I adored big chunks of it, and would have felt quite warmly about the book, except the ending didn't really... end things, for me.  This isn't going to be a big problem for some readers, but I felt perhaps a little cheated - there was no real climax, just a lot of story. Lovely stories, about Radar and his parents and other individuals, but disappointing, nevertheless.

The novel visits several places outside of Radar's home in New Jersey - there's Norway, Serbia, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo.  I am a Norwegian reader, and found some amusement in the conversations pertaining to Norwegian history, and the scattered bits of Norwegian text throughout the book - but this, of course, has me wondering what I missed out on, as I can't read Serbian or French. (And it never looked quite relevant enough to attempt a google translation. Context does the job. I did google the book constantly referred to, "Spesielle Partikler" ("special particles"), just to, um, double-check its fictional nature.  It is. It doesn't exist. I kind of wish it did.

It's tricky to explain this book. I could go: There's a guy named Radar. He's strange. He has parents who are also quite strange, but sweet.  His father joins a mysterious group of performers who do peculiar things around the world, and there are a couple of other people named so-and-so who have interesting stories, and they, too, get involved with these performances, and some of the things that happen are sad.

...It doesn't really tell you anything about what the book is like, does it?

I'd recommend I am Radar to people whose ears perk up when the first adjective chosen to describe a novel is odd.  It sits somewhere just inside of magical realism, peppered with beautiful sentences and sentiments, prose that takes you easily from one page to the next.  As I said, it was not an unpleasant read.      But leave it for when you can deal with an utter lack of closure, okay?

Perhaps because of the unsatisfying ending, this book has left me with an enormous book hangover, wow.

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