Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: The Recluse Storyteller by Mark W. Sasse


Red Hat hijacks a yoghurt truck and barrels into the Chester Walz Bank at full speed, desperate to open a safety deposit box.

The twins, beckoned by an ominous streak of light across the sky, climb Harper’s Hill to encounter an apparition of their missing father.

The reverend stands on a muddy ridge, the barrel of the rifle in his neck, looking down on a Vietnamese village, scarred by war and regret.

The stories come to Margaret at all times, but they are anything but random. A fractured view of Michael Cheevers’ red hat through a discreetly cracked door sends her off on adventure. A glimpse of the Johnson twins from apartment 2D takes her to the lonely hill on a Midwestern prairie in 1887. The regular letters from Reverend Davies, who has tried to look after Margaret since the death of her mother, brings her to the brink of exhaustion, staring intensely into the heart of war deep in the jungle of Vietnam.

Margaret is not insane, at least not in a clinical sense. She’s like a midnight raccoon, painfully aware of her surroundings, gleaming crumbs of information at every turn; eyes peering incessantly in the night, stealing glances of neighbors behind partially opened doors.

But the tales that she weaves were not meant to merely hold empty court to the receptive dead air of her apartment. Her stories were meant to embolden the lives of the inhabitants of that drab apartment block because her story is also their story—and everything would be different if they could only hear her stories.

The Recluse Storyteller weaves five stories into one as the loner Margaret not only searches for meaning from her reclusive life, but also gives meaning in the most unexpected ways to the troubled souls of her apartment complex. Part adventure, part tragedy, and part discovery, The Recluse Storyteller bridges genres, bringing hope, life, and redemption to the broken relationships of modern society.
My Rating: 5
My Review:
The Recluse Storyteller is definitely unlike anything I've read before, but I absolutely loved it. It's the kind of book that has you fall deeper and deeper into the story until you're in that world, the kind of book that has you finishing when you should be getting ready so you end up having ten minutes to make yourself somewhat decent. I could not get enough of it.
Each of the separate stories were interesting and engaging, leaving me desperate to know what would follow, and the way that they're interwoven together is absolutely brilliant. Shuffling between these different story lines not only kept the experience from having any slow moments, but also ensures that this novel will not be put down.
I really found myself connecting to Margaret through the stories, including her own reality. Don't we all struggle to cope with the real word and use stories - regardless of the medium - to escape? I know I definitely do. It's also easy to feel like you can only communicate with others through certain ways, though they will never really understand you. Margaret is like that part of us we only see when we are alone, as we don't entirely want to admit that it exists, but just leave it in the dark corners until the whispers become too loud. She was a very powerful character, and I enjoyed the chance to try and see things from her perspective.
Even the minor characters had strengths and wonderfully contrasting personalities that made them believable. Whether it be the neighbors in the apartment or the various names Margaret gave life to, all of them had redeemable qualities and were genuinely interesting.
I loved the writing of The Recluse Storyteller. There's great pacing and an attention to detail that will directly spin the gears of the reader's imagination. Between the strong emotion and the general excellent storytelling, The Recluse Storyteller is not one to miss. 

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