what’s the word

Only kind ones right now:

A variety of ghosts haunt the reader in Ash Cinema. Each of the three narrators has lost a love to death and led to reconnect with them through writing. Though they never know each other, all of their lives are somehow affected by the obscure, avant-garde filmmaker Sebastian Falke.

Rathke does an amazing job of bringing the reader into these lives that have been saved by love and shattered by its loss. And for a story that deals with such weighty themes, it’s not bogged down by romanticized depression and moping. We are shown the consequences of loving as deeply as they have, and we come to understand their loss. Rather than depressing, I found it to be a clever testimonial to the power of human connection and why it is one of our most profound human experiences.

The narration style fits the book so well, as it is often as ethereal as the ghosts in its pages. Each story is told in a first person narration that is more about a feeling than any particular image. As I read their stories, I felt like I was in that piece of the mind that narrates the events of our lives and creates a story to make sense of it. It was a really profound experience. More than being told a story, I felt like I was living in these parts of the narrators’ lives.

Ash Cinema does a great job of many things, but one of my favorite is its use of art and its effect upon people. More than just entertainment, art in Ash Cinema is a catalyst for action. People don’t just see the films of Sebastian Falke and go about living their lives. Even the rumor of his films’ existence is the impetus for a lifelong quest. Most everyone derides his work, but the power of his films echo through generations for a small number of people, and lives are brought together and broken apart because of them. That’s the power I feel the arts have in my life, and it was refreshing to see them have such an impact in the lives of these characters.

There’s not much to critique in this book. If anything, the first of the three stories is a bit slow and involves someone who spends a good deal of time alone, which lends itself to prose that is a bit indulgent to sensory feelings that didn’t add much to the story. But things pick up quickly, and before the end of the first story I was completely engrossed. The second and third stories are much stronger and even manage to make the first story stronger in retrospect.

It’s impossible to describe much of the plot of Ash Cinema without doing it injustice, so I won’t try. I will say that this was an engrossing story, and that it deeply affected me. I know when I look back at this book on my list of books that I read for 2012, I will be reminded of the strong impression it left on me well after finishing it.

–Paul Eckert.

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