Illumination (Brockmeier)

Book Reviews
[E]legantly written...Brockmeier devotes his considerable gifts of description to the illuminated wounds of his characters, using lush, quiet prose to detail their cancer, abuse, self-mutilation and just plain old age.... Brockmeier relies on his usual poise to make the Illumination real. The reader never doubts that, on a certain day at a certain time, light begins to pour from our wounds. The strange transformation is wonderfully human, down to the social awkwardness it engenders.
Scott Hutchins - New York Times Book Review


Brockmeier is a dazzling stylist with a flair for creating alternate versions of familiar existence...[an] elegiac tone pervades the book, and indeed, it is the mood of much of Brockmeier's work. He is a poet of grief and longing whose precision is reminiscent of Steven Millhauser's fiction. Brockmeier resists the easy resolution of allegory, and that makes the premise of this novel successful. The Illumination is a sad and beautiful novel, well worth the heartache evoked in its pages.
Keith Donohue - Washington Post


In Brockmeier's spectacular latest, pain manifests itself as visible light after a mysterious event called "the Illumination," revealing humanity to be mortally wounded, and yet Brockmeier finds in these overlapping, storylike narratives, beauty amid the suffering. Jason Williford, a photojournalist, loses his wife in a traffic accident and fixates on a troubled teenage girl who teaches him to cultivate pain "in a dreamlike vesper." Chuck Carter, a battered and bullied neighbor boy, steals a journal of love notes from Jason's house, and later gives the journal to door-knocking evangelist Ryan Shifrin, who found his faith after watching his younger sister die from cancer. Telescoping into his decades of service to the church, Ryan wonders at the civil strife and disasters that "produce a holocaust of light." Through accounts of quotidian suffering depict humanity's quiet desperation—the agony of a severed thumb, the torture of chronic mouth ulcers—Brockmeier's careful reading of his characters' hearts and minds gives readers an inspiring take on suffering and the often fleeting nature of connection.
Publishers Weekly


In a familiar but parallel universe, the wounds, diseases, sores, and tumors of the inhabitants begin emitting light, evidently in varying colors and shades. It seems they still hurt but are now visible to others. This work covers the stories of several individuals, from a woman who stabs herself accidently to a photographer who has a car accident; a writer suffering from sores in her mouth to a young boy who is a victim of brutal abuse. Linking the tales is a book, originally compiled by the photographer, of love notes to his now deceased wife, which is passed from one character to the next and conveys a message to each according to their painful circumstances. The novel ends with a homeless man getting thoroughly beaten up by local hoods. Verdict: A capable writer, Brockmeier (The Brief History of the Dead) succeeds in describing the depressing circumstances of the characters, along with passing observations of a fragmentary and disorienting nature. Some readers may find this uplifting and inspiring, but others will feel pained by the suffering the novel seeks to illuminate. —Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta
Library Journal


A soft-hearted spiritual parable that aims for beguiling but succumbs to cloying. The author's first novel since The Brief History of the Dead (2006) is another vaguely futuristic fable with meditations on mortality, which explore the beauty and redemption in suffering.... More illumination than revelation.
Kirkus Reviews

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