What book would I nominate if I could? That's like asking a fish what part of the ocean he loves best. He doesn't swim because he likes it, he swims because that's what he does. If you're wondering what the hell I am talking about, I am getting to my point, I swear. What I am trying inarticulately to say, is that I read because that what's I do, like the fish. There is no question of me not reading. So to pick one book out of the huge list I've read in the past year is difficult. Several good ones came to mind immediately: The Time of Our Singing by Richard Powers, but that came out several years ago. Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thomson was one of the best books I've read in a long while, but it won't be out for a few months yet.
But there is one book that I think about often---The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer. One of the reasons I love this book (and this may seem strange) is how I even came across it in the first place. I think it was Mark or Ed who kept talking about it. And I know it was popular amongst other bloggers as well. Suffice it to say, I read the book and loved it.
This is what I wrote when I first read The Confessions:
It's not until I reread the first line of this enchanting novel that I really understood it. 'We are each the love of someone's life.' The entire novel seems to revolve around missed chances and wrong times. Max Tivoli is born an old grizzled man in 1871. He appears wrinkled and white at birth, but ages backwards, appearing younger and younger as time passes. The story is told in 3 parts but with the twist---youth, middle age, and old age are each 'confessed' to us. And we realize as we read, that Max is writing this in his old age, but living as a young boy. 'Be what you are' is what his mother tells him. Max does just that, playing whatever role his physical appearance imposes on him.
What is remarkable about this book is not the twist, but the melancholic and observant tone. Max is not completely sympathetic----he does some remarkably selfish things. But so much of Max's life is observed rather than experienced, since he never feels like a part of the world due to his condition. The one thing Max truly experiences is love. He meets Alice when she is 14 and he is 17, but of course he is living as an older man. In fact, his mother has told the neighbors that he is her brother-in-law. He spends his life loving Alice and writing about Alice. The other character you keep reading about is his lifelong friend Hughie, who plays a major role in Max's life as well.
The whole thing sounds gimmicky, but Greer makes it work with his wonderful writing. He has a real feel for the period (there are echoes of Proust). This isn't to say that the novel does not have its problems. I wish Max's sister was more than briefly mentioned. But all in all the problems fall away with the very human story of a man who loves a woman but doesn't know how to fit himself into her life.
Maybe this book won't appeal to everyone. But I hope at least some will give it a chance. It's really worth it, I swear.