The Familiar v1: One Rainy Day in May by Mark Z Danielewski

Clocking in at more than 800 pages printed on coated paper, The Familiar v1: One Rainy Day in May, is one crazy heavy book. Thank goodness it didn’t take as long to read as I thought it would, and so I did not have to lug it around in my bag for a very long time.

A master of form is function when it comes to writing, Mark Z Danielewski plunges us into a story that takes place through the experiences of several characters across one rainy day in May. While most of them are based in the US, one character is based in Singapore, speaking an amusing Singlish which comes across as reasonably legit. With his mix of English, Chinese (Hokkien? Cantonese?) and Bahasa, I wonder how those unfamiliar to this mish mash of language will make sense of this particular character’s narrative. Even I resorted to Google translate more than a few times.

Despite the myriad of characters, some of whom gets mildly linked to one another towards the end of this book, the main character seems to be Xander – we hear from her and both her parents more so than anyone else. I could be wrong from an empirical standpoint, but it sure feels like it.

Danielewski doesn’t hold back in playing with text in the first volume of what is expected to be 23 in total? (I’m a little confused as to how it works) And while I enjoyed how the story progresses and the different characters we meet, as well as the far from typical copy layout, it can be a bit too much for those who don’t want to experiment very much when it comes to reading. It really is quite a bit of an experience, and not one some will appreciate.

The question I asked myself when I purchased this book though was if I would bother to read the other volumes? And you know what, I think yes. The story has just begun, and I am curious to watch it all come together and also figure out what The Familiar is actually all about!

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