OK, listen carefully people. The next time I pick up a book written in the magical realism style, please stop me!
Magical realism just doesn’t do anything for me. And The Famished Road is 500 pages of dreams, ghosts, cats that appear out of nowhere, and unusual people who behave in strange and mystical ways. It’s the story of Azaro, a “spirit child,” who remains in contact with the spirit world after his birth. Azaro’s family is clearly struggling to earn a living, make ends meet, feed and clothe themselves, etc.
The book started off strong with this opening sentence:
In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river it was always hungry. (p. 3)
Well, that’s just beautiful. And there are many passages like that. But, as I mentioned, there are also dreams, ghosts, cats that appear out of nowhere, and unusual people who behave in strange and mystical ways. This book is full of allegory and cultural references that I just couldn’t grasp. Some reviews (notably Trevor’s on The Complete Booker) cited the value of facilitated classroom discussion. That might have helped me overcome the whole magical realism thing. As it was, I read only the first 71 pages and decided there were better ways to spend my time.