The Illusion of Separateness
The Illusion of Separateness is several stories, all interconnected by events that took place during World War II. In this work inspired by true incidents, we follow the lives of Martin, Mr. Hugo, Danny, and Amelia in the present day; all three are shaped by what occurred to John (and by extension, Harriet and others) during the war. Moving among the characters and throughout the time periods, we learn in carefully revealed layers how John, an American GI, crashed outside Paris and eventually came to know one of the others. Through unconventional decisions, lives were saved and changed forever.
Van Booy has a very lyrical way of writing, with lots of gorgeous descriptors that bring the characters to life. Though this is a short novel, its depth is apparent as we watch John struggle with the realization that he holds life in his hands, and Amelia discovers the mystery of his actions after his death. At times I was overwhelmed with the tragedy and the inhumanity described throughout, but the author kept me engaged through his tantalizing revelations that had me eager to see how it would all play out. Though I did feel that some of the writing was a bit forced, almost as though it was looking for the most metaphorical way of stating an idea, overall this novel captured me early on and didn’t let go until the final page. Recommended.