Having read a handful of reviews of this book on Goodreads before I started it, but after I got it through NetGalley, I realized there are two sorts of readers of this book… those who haven’t finished the book and probably won’t ever and those who are hyper-critical of those who haven’t finished because this book, according to this latter group, is one of the greatest ever written.
That made starting it all the more daunting; because I don’t like quitting books and I don’t like people judging me before I start something.
So I was determined to at least the finish the book so I could complain, or rave, about it with all due process of reading.
This did not happen.
Much like the narrator’s life, he is inexplicably given the same name as the author as another fictional character in the book, I got nowhere fast.
This had almost wholly to do with the pretentious, self-centered, cheating to the knife’s edge of being a criminal, vaguely racist, slightly misogynistic narrator, Joshua Cohen. Women always do him wrong, he never does women wrong. He spent paragraphs describing the shape of his mother’s (his own mother’s!) thighs and butt after her husband died and comparing them to his super health conscious girlfriend (that he was kinda sorta freeloading off) and neither got good marks from him. He describes an Asian food truck worker as Asian because (paraphrasing) “it’s too hard to tell Vietnamese the others, and even men from women.” Joshua Cohen (narrator, not author) wrote one book that never actually got published (apparently because of 9/11 though the exact why is something I never understood) but he fancies himself really good at it, though he rarely does it. It’s all about him. Joshua Cohen (author, not narrator) makes this clear by using giant, complex words that all but scream “I’m a writer and I have a thesaurus!” in simple sentences where not knowing the obscure word isn’t a problem because context clues fill in the blanks.
And Joshua Cohen (narrator, not author) is strangely not the most interesting part of the book.
The narrator wrote a book relating to his mother’s family history during the Holocaust. The narrator was in New York and lost friends on 9/11. That is the story I wanted to read.
So, in conclusion, fine. People who have reviewed and loved this book and been so harsh on those who couldn’t finish it… I’m a quitter too. I don’t care. I bet you and I don’t have many favorite books in common anyway. You keep yours, I’ll keep mine and we can both be happy, yeah?
(I received a copy of BOOK OF NUMBERS through NetGalley & Random House in exchange for an honest and original review.)