I recently read The Bewildered by Peter Rock. I’d read My Abandonment a month or two earlier, and loved it. My Abandonment was published after The Bewildered, and I now somewhat regret reading them in reverse order, because as I read The Bewildered I recognized characters whom I’d caught small glimpses of in My Abandonment. There was even a scene retold from one book to another, from a different point of view.
There is something magical in this—much more than I would have expected. I was surprised by how strong my reaction to it was. The connections I recognized as I read The Bewildered deepened my experience of My Abandonment months after having read it. It’s an even richer book now in my memory. It’s added to the uncanny feeling you get when reading a novel that’s set in the place where you live. I think about his characters every time I see the big Towne Storage sign and the water tower above it, every time someone mentions Forest Park, every time I pass by a power station… His characters move through a Portland very similar to my own, and the continuity in the books adds to the feeling that their reality runs parallel to mine, and that we might stumble into each other one day.
It’s a tricky thing to have the email address of the author whose book you’re reading. You have the means to actually tell them all the things you’re saying to them in your head as you read. Usually I restrain myself. This time, I didn’t. As I read The Bewildered and started to see these connections, I got all excited and sent Rock an email saying so. Here’s what he had to say (shared here with his permission):
“Most of my work is connected, this way–Caroline and especially her sister Della [from My Abandonment] feature in my forthcoming book. I do this for my own sake, more than anything, giving myself confidence and showing how the world is continuous…”
It pleases me to think that something he does for his own sake, to get a handle on a new project, can affect the reader so strongly. His next book, The Shelter Cycle, which comes out in April. I’m looking forward to being back in his world, curious to see how this new book alters my impressions of the other two.