|(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)|
Isidore is a brilliant young man, driven in equal measure by grief at his young mother's death, rage at his distant, abusive father, and his own fierce ambitions. When Isidore becomes a doctor, and a father himself, the cycle of grief continues, and soon it is his son Leo who is left behind too young, also grown to be a doctor. The story becomes Leo's, an alternately heartbreaking and hilarious account of his cross-country road trip with his younger brother as they try to understand their family, their relationship, and their own futures. An appealingly oddball character, angry at the world but angrier at himself, Leo yearns for love and simple satisfaction. Through his eyes we see the power of family to both destroy and create, and the price and rewards of independence.
In The Land of the Living is about the relationships between fathers and sons, and brothers. We have Isidore, father to both Mack and Leo. He's a doctor who endured a lot of bullying and abuse growing up. His mother passed away when he was quite young, so he was left to be raised by a bullying father and foster parents (in the times when his dad just couldn't afford to raise three sons). With a lot of hard work, Isidore went on to become a doctor, fall in love and marry Laura, and raise two sons, Leo and Mack. However, Isidore's life is cut short and his sons' must grow up without a father. Leo feels obligated to honor his father and decides that he wants to become a doctor, but he is so lost and saddened by the loss of his father, that is he floundering. Plus, Leo is convinced that his younger brother Mack does not care about him in the least and so he yearns for a relationship with his brother. It is Isidore and Leo's points of view that tell this interesting story about growing up, growing apart, and reaching out.
Ratner has created a well written story that divides into three sections: Isidore's life, Leo's life, and Mack and Leo's road trip. The characters are fleshed out enough that you feel their sadness and can't help but wish them happiness. There are some dark moments in the story that may be disturbing, but they only reinforce Ratner's depiction of bullying, loneliness, and melancholy. And the crude language was off-putting at first, but once I got past the first chapter, I found myself quickly flipping through the pages. I have to admit that I didn't care for the way Ratner would introduce a character and then suddenly make them disappear from the story without any explanation. He tended to focus on the minutia surrounding the story more than the actual story at times and that was a bit tedious. But in the end, I found that I actually enjoyed reading all about Isidore, Leo, and Mack. So, yes, I would recommend In The Land of the Living - it makes for quite an interesting read.
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