The Book of Form and Emptiness: A Novel

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This may be the first book that I have ranked so highly (other than the classics). This book made me burst into tears after the last page; it is that beautiful. In many ways, the protagonist is similar to Ignatius J. Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces, in that they are both socially alienated, live with their mothers, are medievalists, and have elusive girlfriends.

Benny Oh is the main character of this story. His mother, the recently widowed Annabelle, is an overweight hoarder who is steeped in current events and enjoys escaping into unrealized dreams. Despite all their faults, never has a mother/son relationship been drawn with so much love and understanding of that powerful dynamic.

For all her many faults, Annabelle deeply loves Benny, for whom she would sacrifice even her deepest memories. Benny also lives in a dream world and is terrorized by the voices of inanimate (?) objects. His deepest adversary is the book written and narrated about his life. He cannot escape the accuracy of that documentation.

This is a complicated book with complicated imperfect relationships. As the author says, “I have a sense of normal being, you know, vast—vast and all inclusive.”


Reviewed By:

Author Ruth Ozeki
Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 560 pages
Publisher Viking
Publish Date 21-Sep-2021
ISBN 9780399563645
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue December 2021
Category Popular Fiction
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