Posted by: jeannineatkins | December 4, 2008

Everything Beautiful in the World by Lisa Levchuk

If you dare to call a novel Everything Beautiful in the World (Farrar,Straus and Giroux), the prose had better be good. Fortunately, the voice, imagery, and structure of this debut novel by Lisa Levchuk are elegant, and point a way for seventeen-year-old Edna to get beyond the fear she lives with since her mother was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. The voice is punchy, cool, and vulnerable all at once. Edna is both distant and all there as she steps into shaky territory with her good-looking and married art teacher. The mother stays mostly out of view, but I felt the perpetual force of her illness. I liked the very short chapters with titles like “Western Civilization,” “The Cold Chair,” “Heaven,” and “The Living Room.” Even while Edna could look to herself and to others like someone in control, I felt uncertain about where she was going. And the last line of the novel is one of the best I’ve ever read.

I’ve been waiting for this book since it was written by my daughter’s beloved high school English teacher. Both my daughter and her former teacher are so cool they haven’t been screaming about it or anything. But I’m not so cool and am thrilled to pieces.

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Responses

  1. Sounds intriguing!
    I’m wondering if shorter chapters might be an industry-wide trend. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m noticing shorter paragraphs and shorter chapters, across several genres.

  2. Yes, I’ve seen some shorter chapters, too, which I like. This is an interesting way as because it’s one strong first person voice, you really do want to keep reading and going with that flow. There’s not much, except time, to make you want to stop. But going back over it, the titles make you see the content in a new somewhat more formal way. And the prose sort of briefly turns to a poem. Or something.

  3. OOoh, I want to read this!!

  4. This sounds wonderful. I like that it doesn’t start BEFORE she gets the news. On my list!

  5. Yes, snuggle in for a good ride!

  6. That’s a good point. We get the illness as background which she must accept, and only obliquely see how it influences actions. Glad to add to the piles around your house!

  7. Oh, yeah, I SO need more books! Always! 🙂

  8. Am putting this on my list. Thanks for the heads-up!
    (And I had to chuckle at your line about the prose living up to the title. I hadn’t thought of that until you pointed it out but that title would put on a little pressure).

  9. Yeah, maybe that’s me — feeling pressure from every corner.
    I’m glad it’s on your list!

  10. Thanks for the recommendation–I’m putting it on reserve right now. I just read Life on the Refrigerator Door, also about a teen daughter and mom with cancer. I wasn’t completely wild about it. Hoping this one will pull me in more.


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