Sunday, October 5, 2008

Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman

***Slight spoilers included***

Downtown Owl follows three residents of Owl, a small town in North Dakota, through roughly 5 months of their lives. There's Mitch, the high school football player; Julia, a new teacher in town; and Horace, the old man who meets his buddies for coffee. With just a few exceptions, each of the chapters is written from the viewpoint of one of these characters.

Awesome book! I loved it. Klosterman's writing is straight forward and easy to read. His characters and insight into these characters is amazing. We get to know them intimately and through them we get to know the other people in town. I loved that the three main characters do not interact, in fact they have nothing to do with each other. They live separate lives and are only brought together because they live in the same town. Otherwise, their stories would be standalone. That is, until their fates collide on one fateful day; February 4, 1984. Even then they don't interact. I haven't lived in a small town (I'm a city girl), but it wouldn't surprise me if these people really did exist in small town USA or Canada for that matter. They were so believable.

My favourite chapters included: November 22, 1983 (Julia) where Julia and Vance have a conversation in the bar and the author includes what they are thinking in the dialogue; and January 5, 1984 (Mitch) in Mitch is taking a test on the novel 1984 by George Orwell but is clearly thinking of other things. I also really liked the chapter where we learn what happened to Horace's wife. That chapter was disturbing, especially the ending. I sometimes have trouble sleeping and let's just say this chapter didn't help me with that.

While the ending shouldn't have been too much of a surprise, it was. I guess I was so caught up in the story and the characters, that I forgot about the newspaper article at the beginning of the book.

I generally don't read books that deeply nor do I try to analyze them after I finish reading them. Having said that, I'm sure there are plenty of themes running through the book that book clubs could discuss.

Highly recommend. I'd definitely read another book by Klosterman.

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