Your Fathers, Where are they? And the Prophets, do they Live Forever? By Dave Eggers
Page Count: 212
Published By: McSweeny’s, 2014
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: I’ve been looking forward to picking this one back up again since I finished it.
Reviewed by Indiana
If titles and book covers are any indication of a book’s substance, than this one promises to be weird.
And it fulfills that promise from the first sentence to the very last exclamation.
Thomas, the pro/antagonist, is going through some sort of early midlife crisis. But instead of buying an expensive car or taking a vacation, Thomas decides to get into the business of kidnapping.
No one is more surprised than he when he is able to kidnap an astronaut, an very distant acquaintance, Kev. Or when Thomas goes on to kidnap a veteran and a former congressmen.
He takes his prized hostages to a secluded location (barracks on an abandoned military base) and does a lot of talking.
Thomas insists that the world has wronged him and Kev and that there is someone to blame. If only he could just find the right person. His ideas and conversations with his hostages begin to spiral as he cycles through memories of his sad childhood to his unsatisfying adulthood.
As a Dave Eggers fan, I tried to savor this book. It’s one of the only Egger’s books I’ve yet to read so I wanted to take my time and enjoy it.
But savoring this book is like savoring a six inch high ice cream cone on a 95 degree afternoon.
It’s possible, just not advisable.
The plot alone is enough to make anyone devour it, but the writing style only encourages bingeing. The entire book is told through dialogue, so the reader doesn’t know anything beyond what is explicitly stated. It makes the book feel visceral and somehow cinematic.
Perhaps that’s how Eggers is able to let his weirdness shine proudly, and with good reason. Through Thomas’ mind, Egger’s points out some of the strange illnesses that the American conscious has contaged. There’s a sense of disillusion when it comes to the government, to the police force, to parents, to trusted teachers, and to the vitality of the American Dream (for those who have never heard of the American Dream ideal because it’s so removed from reality, it refers to the notion that if you’re an American citizen and work hard, you will be financially comfortable).
At one point, Thomas says “. . . they moved the line on you as soon as you got there.” Although he’s trying to stir up the anger of one of his hostages, it’s clear the hostage doesn’t feel cheated, doesn’t feel like the line was suddenly moved. It’s just Thomas who is standing there hoping that someone else feels as disenchanted, as jaded and as terrified of the future as he does.
On the surface the book reads half the time like an absurdist comedy and like a light hearted Criminal Minds episode. Thomas kidnaps a few other people along the way (like his mother, his former math teacher, and a police officer) and his surprised glee at having captured them is hilarious. Especially as the hostages realize that they’ve been kidnapped by a beginner kidnapper, who is deranged but might not be out to murder them.
Part kidnapping guidebook, part reality check, this Egger’s book is a must read.