Book Report: The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno

I’ve never met a book by Joe Meno that I didn’t like, and The Great Perhaps is no different. The novel, with it’s lyrical and darkly funny prose, rotates between members of the Casper family, each chapter digging into their quirks and revealing a family on the verge of a breakdown.


The Great Perhaps by Joe MenoThe Great Perhaps by Joe Meno

Released: May 2009
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
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★★★☆☆

Synopsis: Jonathan, a paleontologist, is searching in vain for a prehistoric giant squid; his wife, Madeline, an animal behaviorist, cannot explain her failing experiment; their daughter Amelia is a disappointed teenage revolutionary; her younger sister, Thisbe, is on a frustrated search for God; and their grandfather, Henry, wants to disappear, limiting himself to eleven words a day, then ten, then nine – one less each day until he will speak no more. Each fears uncertainty and the possibilities that accompany it. When Jonathan and Madeline suddenly decide to separate, this nuclear family is split and forced to confront its own cowardice, finally coming to appreciate the cloudiness of this modern age.


This is what I liked:

  • Meno showcases his experimental story telling once more by mixing prose with illustrations, transcripts from old radio serials, and declassified government documents.
  • Realistic teenage dialogue and insight that he has more than perfected in his past novels (Hairstyles of the Damned, The Boy Detective Fails)
  • In my personal experience, the characters evoked an array of emotions.  Just when I begin to think, “Wow, I’m glad I don’t know people like this,” another side of their humanity is revealed, and I couldn’t help feeling sympathetic.

The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno

This is what I didn’t like

  • Albeit interesting, I felt the grandfather’s narrative was uninspired compared to the other family members’.
  • Absolutely, under no circumstances read The Great Perhaps on an e-reader (at least not the Nook; I can’t really vouch for other e-readers).  The price tag of $2.59 is alluring, but there is a reason for that.  The e-reader version lacks the illustrations found in the print version.  Regretfully, I found this out the hard way.
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