Book Review: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

A trip to Goodwill filled the nooks and crannies of my bookshelf with fantastic novels I’ve always intended to read and never had the chance to get around to reading. A week in the mountains (with poor wifi) gave me the opportunity to actually read them. I began with Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

Eggers’ first-person narrative takes us through the life of, well, himself, planting us right at the end of his sickly mother’s life and the beginning of a very new reality. After himself and his three siblings become orphans, they move across the country to begin a new life and try and leave the ashes of the old one in Chicago.

A Heartbreaking Work was an addicting read, as Eggers switches between free indirect speech and stream of conciousness and direct speech. We meet characters whose lives are in just as much—and sometimes more—ruin than Eggers, and we watch as Toph—Eggers’ little brother—grows up with his older brother as his guardian.

Eggers’ writing draws the reader in, and it is easy to find someone with whom the reader can keenly relate—whether with an experience or a personality trait. We find joy with Eggers’ publication meant to save the world reaches its moment of glory, and we weep when his friend falls into a coma, close to death.

It may be 14 years old, but A Heartbreaking Work is still one of genius.


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