(story)time: The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy


“I was afraid of the sea when I was a girl. Someone said it went on forever and that frightened me. I wondered why my parents had chosen to live at the beginning and the end of the world.”

In contrast to Broken Verses, with its flowery, poetic prose, The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy has a very spare and simple writing structure. It was interesting to read the two, back to back. I read Broken Verses over the course of a week and a half, most of it over breakfast in a hotel, or in small quiet moments in the car. I read The Illusion of Separateness in two nights – the first half while sitting in the tub until the water ran cool, and the second half in bed the following night. This book can be read in two hours – it’s up to you where you want to surrender those hours – soaks or sheets.

I just finished the series opening podcast of Harry Potter and The Sacred Text (Book 3, Chapter 1), and the text was discussed through the lens of “mercy”. The act of mercy is the centerpiece in this novel – each chapter is devoted to a character and a story, and the people in these stories are woven together through several generations and across oceans and battlefields. I plan to read the novel again – to look again at the text through the lens of mercy, and to fully understand how these acts bind the characters together and bring others to life as a result.

“Then, breathing slow, and almost deliberately, stops. But for a moment the old man doesn’t realize he is dead. He can feel Martin’s heart and mistakes it for his own.”

A lovely book to read, and read again. If I implied that this book lacks poetry in my opening paragraph, then I must clarify that. It is replete with it.

“He realized this early on, and realized too that what people think are their lives are merely its conditions. The truth is closer than thought and lies buried in what we already know.”

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