.Book Thursday.

“Heroes go forth. To be alive is to go forth.” 

What this book is about:

Johannes is a free dog who lives in a park on a small island. He loves running and keeping track of everything that is happening in the park including human activity as well as the other animals. He is the “Eyes” of the park, reporting back to the three Bison who are the “Keepers of the Equilibrium”. He has a team of Assistant Eyes – a seagull, a raccoon and a squirrel to help him with his duties.

As the narrative progresses, we follow Johannes and his friends as they encounter several disturbances to the Equilibrium-the construction of a new structure in the middle of a park, the “rectangles” that fascinate Johannes, the hundreds of goats that are new to the park, the Trouble Travelers and the Control- the- Animals people and the Parks People who are on the lookout for a coyote that has been seen in the vicinity. Johannes also embarks on a quest to free his Bison friends who are fenced in an enclosure in the park. Not everything will go according to his plans and he will face a series of obstacles in the process, learning much about the way the world works and himself in the process.

Please note that this story does not employ anthropomorphism as a narrative device or metaphor. This is a story about animals that coexist in the same habitat, each with their own habits and rituals, and in no way are meant to represent human behavior in any form. The author makes this clear at the beginning of this story. “And, most crucially, no animals symbolize people. It is a tendency of the human species to see themselves in everything, to assume all living things, animals in particular, are simply corollaries to humans, but in this book, that is not the case. Here, the dogs are dogs, the birds are birds, goats are goats, the Bison Bison.”

The story is presented to us in Johannes’ first-person. In turn moving, reflective and humorous and touching upon themes of friendship, family, freedom and change The Eyes & the Impossible by Dave Eggers is a delightful read, full of heart and humor, that readers of any age would enjoy, despite the target audience being younger readers. Johannes is an endearing narrator with an interesting worldview. His observations on human behavior, compassion for his fellow animals (though he isn’t quite sympathetic to the ducks in the park) and his inquisitive nature kept me hooked till the very last page. Illustrator Shawn Harris adds Johannes to the classical landscape paintings interspersed throughout the narrative which are beautiful and perfectly complement the prose. 

“If we go through life assuming everything will be complicated, and then it is complicated, doesn’t that make us better prepared? What I mean is, if we expect life to be complicated, and life is complicated, then life is simple, right?”

Why I loved this book:

This is the single most delightful book I’ve read in quite some time!! It is delightful, with adventure and strong themes of friendship. And I laughed out loud all the way through this book. Johannes directly addresses the reader in a very casual voice throughout the novel. And whether it’s his inability to estimate numbers or his antipathy towards ducks (Don’t trust the ducks!), I was there for it.

In short, this book brought me joy. Absolute joy. And I know that I will be revisiting it. And, hopefully sharing it with many, many people along the way.

Finally, a note on the format. So, the photo all the way above is the version of the book I have. But there is a special edition published that is one of the most beautiful books that I have ever seen, and it’s being sold exclusively in independent bookstores. It has wood front and back covers, with a painting showing through burnouts on the front cover. There are full-color, edge-to-edge painted illustrations all throughout the novel. And there are gleaming gilt edges on all sides. It is simply stunning! And the most impressive thing of all? The beauty on the inside exceeds the beauty on the outside. Get to your local independent bookstore and grab one fast. Also, the audiobook read by Ethan Hawke (which is also amazing) highlights every single bit of the considerable charm, humor and poignancy this novel has to offer. It is well worth listening to. Personally, I think every library needs multiple editions.

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