Thursday, April 23, 2009

'Dear Everybody'

by Michael Kimball
Fiction, 2008
Alma Books, e-book, 223 p.
Jonathon Bender had something to say to the world, but the world wouldn’t listen. However, he left behind unsent letters addressed to relatives, friends, teachers, classmates, professors, roommates, employers, former girlfriends, his ex-wife, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the state of Michigan, and a weather satellite, among many others. These form the narrative of a remarkable life.

Dear Everybody maintains a tone of finely judged tension between laughter and tears in an involving and sympathetically written work of fiction.
When I was originally contacted to see if I would like to review this book, they hadn’t considered, or realised, that it would involve international postage. So instead I was emailed a PDF file of the book with their apologies and no obligation. Although I definitely prefer holding an actual bound book, the concept behind the story still intrigued me so I decided to print it out and give it a go, and I’m really glad I did! I guess I mention this because even though the reading conditions were perhaps not ideal, it was a completely enjoyable read, and as I became engrossed in the story, I didn’t really care anymore that I was reading loose pages. It’s actually made me start lusting after an e-book reader but that’s another matter entirely. As it’s a book I might not have come across otherwise, I’m very glad I gave it a chance.

The story is written in epistolary style, and the full title of the book, Dear Everybody: A Novel Written in the Form of Letters, Diary Entries, Encyclopedia Entries, Conversations with Various People, Notes Sent Home from Teachers, Newspaper Articles, Psychological Evaluations, Weather Reports, a Missing Person Flyer, a Eulogy, a Last Will and Testament, and Other Fragments, Which Taken Together Tell the Story of the Short Life of Jonathon Bender, Weatherman, gives you a good idea of the creativity that makes up this story.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Do you ever wish that the sperm and the egg that became me wasn’t me? I’m sure that you must have been expecting somebody else from all of that pleasure.
The main character, Jonathan, has had a difficult life and the various letters and diary entries and others slowly reveal more about his family and the events that shaped him into the man he became. Each small moment remembered fits together so that we begin to understand him a little better and to truly care for this character. Many of his observations were quite humourous and had me chuckling at his naïveté, but some of his seemingly innocent thoughts were actually quietly profound. Plus, running underneath it all was a strong current of sadness and despair.
Dear Heather Fairing,
I’m sorry that I wouldn’t open the windows in our apartment even though we didn’t have an air conditioner and it was so hot that summer that we lived together. I was afraid that somebody was going to climb up the fire escape and break in on us while we were sleeping and I didn’t know what they might take. There was already too much that was missing from us.
Overall it was a touching story of human relationships and how they can go wrong, and a story which made me stop to ponder the long-lasting effects our actions can have on others. A very worthwhile read.


'Dear Everybody' Blog
Guest Post: On Writing 'Dear Everybody'
Interview with Michael Kimball

First sentence: Now do you remember?



Thank you to Daniel of Alma Books for the opportunity to read this story.

My Rating: 4/5
(#21 for 2009)

14 comments:

  1. This sounds like something I'd totally like. Great review!

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  2. This is definitely going on my TBR list.It sounds like such a great book.

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  3. I don't think I've heard of this one yet but it does sound intriguing--and touching. It's interesting to think how our actions can continue to have an affect on others or even just the future. Too bad about the PDF--you're braver than I am!

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  4. Your cool blog deserves an award! I've given you one at www.bookbirddog.blogspot.com You can pick it up there!

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  5. ooh, I love epistolary techniques! Must keep an eye out for this.

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  6. What an interesting premise... and the title cracks me up. Long titles walk a fine line for me. They can so easily be annoying, but for some reason this one catches me.

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  7. Iliana - I think anyone who likes epistolary style novels would enjoy this. :)

    JM - It really was quite unique.

    Vasilly - I hope you enjoy it if or when you get a chance to read it.

    Trish - LOL. It wasn't too bad reading the printouts but a book would definitely be better! It's true we don't often think how our actions will affect others or how they will change events yet to come.

    Book Bird Dog - Thank you!! :)

    sumthinblue - This one was fun in that it wasn't just letters or diary entries, but an assortment of items.

    Kim L - I know what you mean about long titles sometimes being too much, but this one makes me smile.

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  8. I love the concept of this book! I am glad you were able to read it despite the e-book format. I have to print e-books out too to read them. :-)

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  9. Wendy - I don't think I'd get through a book if I had to read it on my laptop. I'm glad I printed it out though as it was really cleverly done.

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  10. This sounds like something I would like. The "epistolary style" usually doesn't disappoint. :)

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  11. Joy - I pretty much always enjoy epistolary style novels too. This one was really fun. I hope you enjoy it if you get a chance to read it.

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  12. Sounds interesting. I like books like this.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  13. Anna - I usually like books like this too, and this one didn't disappoint!

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