How could I possibly resist a debut novel by a critically acclaimed author? I guess I could not resist because I dove right into "A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain" by Adrianne Harun in spite of the daunting title to discover for myself what the acclaim was about.
I am going to do something that I never do and borrow the story synopsis from the publisher: In isolated British Columbia, girls, mostly native, are vanishing from the sides of a notorious highway. Leo Kreutzer and his four friends are barely touched by these disappearances—until a series of mysterious and troublesome outsiders come to town. Then it seems as if the devil himself has appeared among them.
The reason why I borrowed the story summary rather than writing one of my own is that I really do not know what this book is about. Instead of a unified story, Harun attempts to weave together many different elements and does not succeed in doing so. The book read more like a mash-up of several short stories that were connected by central characters and themes but have distinct story lines. While there were some unifying themes in the story, there was no coherent narrative. Now, I have no problem with non-traditional storytelling or with the author leaving enough open to the reader's interpretation and that may have been what Harun was aiming for in this book but it just does not work. Rather than trying to find a hidden meaning in the story, I just gave up since I could not determine if the author really had a sense of what this story was about either. It was almost as if someone had taken the pages of "Winesburg, Ohio" by Sherwood Anderson and thrown them up in the air and put them haphazardly back together to form a book. It just did not hold together in the long run.
As for the good of the novel, it is obvious that Harun has considerable writing ability as there are passages in the novel that are simply stunning. I have not read anything by Harun in the past but I would definitely give her short stories a try. Unfortunately, it almost seemed like Harun was not able to hold together a narrative in the longer form of a novel and it ultimately fell apart. I will definitely try more of Harun's works in the future but I just can not recommend this book. There are passages and even chapters in the novel that are exemplary but it just does not hold up when looked at in its entirety.
I would like to thank Penguin Group and NetGalley for this review copy. "A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain" is available now.