Simply Lovely: The Illusion of Separateness (review)

The Illusion of Separateness
Simon Van Booy
Harper Collins

We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Martin. Mr. Hugo. Sebastien. John. Amelia. New York, France, England, Los Angeles. A Nazi soldier, a baker; an orphaned baby and a U.S. fighter pilot. Writer Simon Van Booy tells their stories in a series of (seemingly, at first) unconnected narratives, from pre-war Germany in 1939 to present day California. The tone is evocative and their memories shimmer in Van Booy’s hand. This is a book to be read simply for its beauty. The lovely language, for one. Like this: “Rain says everything we cannot say

to one another. It is an ancient sound that willed all life into being, but fell so long upon nothing. The silence after is always louder.” Or this: “Whether you know it or not, we leave parts of ourselves wherever we go. I wonder if I should wear perfume tonight for my date.”

You can take away from the title and the epigraph that the character’s stories lap along the edges of each other. It would be a shame to tell you their stories, though. The volume is slim and my guess is that you’ll be compelled to read it in one sitting as I was. And then, as my friend Denice warned me, turn right back to the beginning to start all over again.

We, one day, will be vanquished with a last puff and then nothing. Nothing but the fragrance of our lives in the world, as on a hand that once held flowers.

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