Ecco: HarperCollins. Mar. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9780062676139. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062676153. F
OrangeReviewStarBall (How To Set a Fire and Why) here offers a quietly epic work. The narrator, a widower aware that he is dying from a heart condition, decides to travel through an unnamed country with his adult son to help take the census. From reading the preface, we understand the son has Down syndrome, though this isn't explicitly stated. The father's plan is that he will die along the way and send his son home by train to a friend he trusts. The census-taking involves tattooing each person counted on a particular rib, and as the story moves along, each visit to a new location is replete with human insights and additional details about the narrator's life. (E.g., he was a surgeon, and his wife was a famous mime.) With the narrator's health continuing to decline, more truths are revealed until ultimately the son must leave the narrator to face death alone.
VERDICT Focusing on how to protect our own after we are gone in the face of ignorance, cruelty, and disregard, this work combines a travel adventure with a meditation on human kindness to create a deeply perceptive work of essential truths. Highly recommended for all readers. [See Prepub Alert, 10/9/17.]
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