This book in a word? Bleak.
Yet, also highly relevant and reflective of our world at this precise moment of the pandemic.
Authors, read this if you want to see an example of an example of too much telling instead of showing. The opening chapters are devoted to world building and a how-did-we-get-here? explanation. When I began reading, I felt I was being schooled in economics, not diving into an established world. Once the rules are established, however, Shriver weaves threads of a family saga that reflect a very possible and dire future for the US, maybe even the world.
When I first began telling people about the book, I said, "Imagine if the economic and social collapse in Venezuela between 2010 and 2020 happened in the US. That’s the start of The Mandibles."
Readers, read this if you want to imagine how life in the US could look if we carry on living the way we do. I love dystopian novels, but often the worlds are unrecognizable. In The Mandibles, I could imagine the suffering my friends and family would experience if what Shriver predicts should come to pass. She actually foresaw the madness that would surround toilet paper if the end of the world were near.
Also, despite the title, it isn’t a future dystopia; it’s about the US's current society failing—and let's be honest, it's pretty dystopian already, even if its citizens won't admit it—it's about regular people relying on those in charge and trusting them to know what’s going on, counting on them to set out reliable, fair systems to govern our daily lives, and hoping those people are working for everyone’s benefit.
Anyone reading the political news in 2020 knows that theory is not the case.
What I want to tell readers about this book is that economics matters. Don’t let the government get away with trying to do sneaky things. Invest in the knowledge because it’s in your own interest to do so.
This book weaves through time and history, and as a reader, I wanted certain connections to happen, but they never did. While it was frustrating, I also constantly reminded myself that most of the connections that happen in many stories are a type of wish fulfillment; this story never lets you forget that it isn’t really how life is.
What drove me nuts, you ask? The characters were aware of their family history to a certain extent, but I wanted them to be looking for their roots. It was such a strong desire that I had to put the book down from time to time and ask myself why it was so important to me that a person be interested in knowing where they come from. I haven’t been able to answer that yet.
Once I finished, I was left with so many questions. How can people search for their roots if they were torn from them? How many connections in life are really coincidence? How much history have we lost?
The world has yet to own up to its role in the destruction of Africa’s families and the effects that has on its descendants to this day. Somewhere in my past, my ancestors must have played some part, yet those are not the stories that get passed down. It’s part of the lost history.
What I want to tell others about this book is that I’m overwhelmingly grateful to Gyasi for opening my eyes to something I know little about. I originally thought the message from the book was “That’s life.” On further contemplation I’ve realized it’s actually, “That’s people.” My world feels a little darker right now.
I read a lot and I hope to help authors with the craft of writing. I share good examples of difficult aspects of writing: point of view, narration, world building and more.
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