The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch (Volume One: At The Edge of Empire) by Daniel Kraus (5 out of 5)
My running into this one has quite a few stories attached to it. Firstly, Lisa from my job forwarded me an email about a dinner in Daniel’s honor and for the upcoming release of his book, Zebulon Finch. I saw the cover and thought, “I like that cover.” I know, I know…that old adage again! Then Holly, our kids’ buyer, got the invite too… so that’s coming up. The lovely Audrey at Simon & Schuster sent me a copy. I was FINALLY able to really dig into it last night, after another sleepless night (only good thing about the insomnia is that I get more reading done!) and finish it. It is not a light undertaking, folks. It’s almost 700 pages. Kraus can write. Seriously. Zebulon’s journey is well chronicled and documented through his eyes. The reader is almost instantly swept into this sweeping, historical epic. But it’s more than that. It’s an unbelievable story of a 17-year old who dies, and is brought back, to encounter all sorts of adventures through “life”, with new eyes (and a new body. That’s quite a paragraph, where Zebulon tells us the differences between life and death). I’m going to say it right off the bat. There are scenes of violence (there have to be, for what Zebulon morphs through during this first book). There are scenes of a sexual nature, so if your child is being raised as a Quaker reborn or a Puritan, forget it, you’re not going to appreciate their place in Zebulon’s story, or likely the book. This is not a book that anyone below 14 should read, unless you have an intelligent 12 or 13 year old who isn’t staggered by realistic and often dark images of life during that time period. Because there is a fair share of them. But again-I am telling you- read it! It’s unbelievable. Twists and turns around every corner, often making me go back and re-read what I had previously read to make sure that I didn’t miss something. Zebulon’s voice is so distinctive, and yes, the wry wit he tells his story with is another plus. The premise of this book was like nothing I’d heard of, so to get a chance to read it and go to a dinner for it and for the author? Completely awesome. Even more so that I loved the book! And yes, I’ll tell anyone who asks me.. while reading it, it really reminded me a LOT of “Jonathan Strange And Mr. Norrell” by Susannah Clarke. The style of writing, more than anything else, for sake of clarification. That’s definitely a compliment toward Daniel Kraus. I cannot wait for Volume 2 of Zebulon’s story.
Zebulon Finch is a 17-year old gangster living on the mean streets of Chicago. He’s gunned down on the shores of Lake Michigan, only to be mysteriously resurrected moments later. And that’s only part of the adventure! His corporeal body is not longer as it was, but for all intent and purposes, he’s alive. And begins the journey of, well, a “lifetime” (“resurrectime”, maybe?)… he goes from being the side show attraction in a phony medicine man’s traveling show, to being a guinea pig to a scientist obsessed with the spectre of Death, a soldier in WWI fighting in France, a runaway in NYC during the Depression, and the “companion” to Hollywood’s most gorgeous starlet. Zebulon was a murderer in his previous life, and you have a sense throughout that redemption is something that he yearns for. There is not part of this book where it lets up, lags, or bores the reader for a second. Zebulon has such a presence, warts and all, that you simply can’t help but root for him in whatever his fantastical journey brings. And what a journey it is!
The book itself is out on October 27, 2015. Keep it in your phones and on your TBR lists.