What the Family Needed

images-2“Okay, tell me which you want.  To be able to fly, or to be invisible?”

When Giordana’s seven-year-old cousin Alek poses this question, she has no idea that it will change her life.  And so begins this intriguing novel about being a family, and finding yourself within a challenging world.

Each chapter of the novel is told from the perspective of a different family member and at different times of the many years of family history.

Giordana’s is the first.  She longs to melt into the background, and so when she chooses invisibility, and it manifests, so begins the premise of the novel – that each member finds a super-power at the exact time that they need it.

What Amsterdam’s real genius in this is, is that this doesn’t dissolve into a cartoonish fantasy story.  The powers reveal the inner psychological need of at the character at the time, and give them the strength to view their lives differently.  None go off and become Superman, they just find balance.  Thus, life is portrayed as both ordinary and mystical.

The last chapter is devoted to Alek, who begins us on the path of magic.  Alek’s gifts surpass all of those in the rest of the family, he can change time and manipulate the physical world to the degree that his story supersedes and contradicts the others.  Alek is a character who none of us can really comprehend – neither his family nor the reader. Both wise and childish, his actions both start and finish the narrative, which continues to circle around him throughout.

There are plenty of mysteries left in the novel, reflecting the unknowable in all things around us.  This is a very satisfying and finely crafted read.  Amsterdam continues to impress.

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