This is one of those books that I got to read courtesy of the bookcase at Forum, which means that I’ve read it and I can suggest that you head over to Amazon now, order it today, and read it the day the book comes out (Sept. 16). Did I mention that I liked it?
I’ve read a lot of books and I’ve read a lot of different types of books over the course of my life, but I don’t know that I’ve ever really read a book like this. I could read it again and again and probably find new details every single time. I could read it again and again and never really understand it. It feels like something from Toni Morrison, in which you know there is something to be read and something to be found, but that you really don’t know what it is or even if you are supposed to know.
Nothing is hidden in Wolf in White Van, because the end happens first. And yet, it is a maze, exactly like the cover. You know precisely what it says, but you have no idea how it actually works. Every so often, the story transitions from where we are to some point in time earlier in the narrative. Sometimes the jumps are so sly as to be almost unnoticeable; sometimes they are abrupt and awkward. But every transition is designed to be exactly what it was. We follow the main character through the recesses of his mind, through his imaginary game (Welcome to Trace Italian!) that is anything but imaginary, and through the truth of life. Which is, of course, that we really don’t know what life is.
With a book that captures your imagination first and your intellect second, John Darnielle grabs you from page one with this book and makes it really hard to leave the story, even when you put the book down. I can’t help but imagine that this is a story he’s been working out in his head for his entire life. The book is really a story in a game in a story, and it feels almost like Darnielle has opened up his brain to us by putting this story in a game in a story into words. The words aren’t always my favorite, but they are certainly compelling. They make you think. They make you wonder. And they make you imagine, which is really the point of a novel anyways.