At the beginning of Autumn Shadows in August, David, the narrator, has been living in Japan with his wife Kaori for quite some time. After several years of serious medical issues for both of them - they travel to Amsterdam to revisit some of his old haunts. Told from David's point of view, the novel alternates between their immediate travels in Europe, and David's memories of times past.
Very much in the vein of the authors this novel is dedicated to (Hermann Hesse and Malcolm Lowry), this is a novel asking questions about the process of self-discovery, coming to terms with mortality and maturity, and finding what makes life in those stages worth living. David's digressions into childhood memory, fantasy (and real) baseball games, his time in prison as a conscientious objector, travels in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and India, among others. These memories do include a number of drug experiences (pot, LSD, mushrooms), as well as some violence of varying types.
And, in line with these authors, the style of the novel is intellectual, alternating between heavy dialogue and lengthy internal reminiscences by the narrator. There are places the dialogue can be confusing (due to layout that sometimes does not make it clear when the speaker changes). There are also places where information is clearly been given to benefit the reader, not because it makes sense in the context of the novel
Of particular interest to readers here at Facing North, the journey of the protagonist and his wife touches on several metaphysical moments: the idea of a doorway to new possibilities (a Magic Theatre based on Hermann Hesse’s work), the power of synchronicity, and the idea that challenging experiences in life can open up new and unexpected possibilities.
This book will be most satisfying to readers interested in an arc of personal development similar to the protagonist’s. Readers interested in a female-centered story might be frustrated by the relative lack of time Kaori gets on screen.
~ review by Jenett Silver
Author : Robert W. Norris
Lulu, 2005pp. 207, $13.92 print, $5.24 ebook)