Reviews > Published on September 2nd, 2014

Bookshots: 'The Shimmering Go-Between' by Lee Klein

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


The Shimmering Go-Between

Who wrote it?

There's no way to explain this book without making it sound like a book that you probably don't want to read, but it's a book that you probably do want to read, because it's really good.

Lee Klein, author of Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck: Rejection Letters from the Eyeshot Outbox

Plot in a box:

Good lord, where do I even start? The book jacket asks for no spoilers, and I'm inclined to oblige. I am allowed to say that "it's a good-natured tale about love, longing, and loss," but that really doesn't help anyone.

Invent a new title for this book:

What the Hell Just Happened & Other Sex Stories

Read this if you liked:

The Crystal EatersThe Galaxy ClubFalling Out of Time

Meet the books lead(s):

Dolores is the main character? Maybe? But it could be Wilson, or Scrummy, or Rue, or one of several naked women...

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

Dolores = a young Ashley Benson during the opening chapters, but The World's End's Rosamund Pike later on; Wilson = Chris O'Dowd with a big beard; Scrummy = Josh Hutcherson or any attractive but non-threatening teenage-ish dude; Rue = Mary-Louise Parker? Thandie Newton? She could be anyone you could imagine marrying Chris O'Dowd with a beard; one of several naked women = Stana Katic, definitely.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

It takes place in NJ, so theoretically, yes, I would live there, because I am actually from New Jersey. It mostly takes place in Trenton and Princeton, but I can look past that.

What was your favorite sentence?

Right as things began to seem to Rue like they were getting much too hot for an al fresco noontime romp, their sweat about to mix into some volatile cocktail, without warning, out of nowhere, they were covered in goop.

The Verdict:

There's no way to explain this book without making it sound like a book that you probably don't want to read, but it's a book that you probably do want to read, because it's really good. It's mostly insanely confusing for the vast majority of the book, but everything is made fairly clear at the end. Also, it's not the kind of confusing where the narration is poor and the point of view is vague and the prose is convoluted; it's obvious from moment to moment specifically what is physically happening, what the forward motion of each scene encompasses. The confusion comes from the magical realism of the story and the fact that much of what is happening doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense. In general, everything seems fairly improbable, if not impossible.

Improbability shouldn't deter anyone from a good book, though. Harry Potter is improbable, as are all of Aesop's fables and One Hundred Years of Solitude and really the vast bulk of human literature. The Shimmering Go-Between is only different in that it pretends to be probable and doesn't flinch when facing its own absurdity.

I don't specifically understand what I was meant to get from this book, but I'll be thinking about it for a long time, which is probably enough. There's a lot of sex and abstraction and general weirdness that isn't found in a lot of books, or maybe is found in other books but not necessarily in this same combination. It's new. It's difficult to find a book that feels new, but this book feels new. Maybe I haven't read enough magical realism, or maybe there's some kind of obscure sub-genre that I've never stumbled upon that The Shimmering Go-Between is the perfect example of, but for the most part I found the book refreshing because I genuinely had not the fainting flipping idea what was going to happen next at any point in the book. From page one, there was absolutely nothing that I would have considered to be "predictable." That's really rare, and regardless of how you feel about absurdity or improbability or sex or mystery goop, it's worth reading this book just to experience that pure sense of curiosity that comes from discovering something that is genuinely new. 

About the author

Brian McGackin is the author of BROETRY (Quirk Books, 2011). He has a BA from Emerson College in Something Completely Unrelated To His Life Right Now, and a Masters in Poetry from USC. He enjoys Guinness, comic books, and Bruce Willis movies.

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