The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

historyAn elderly man, an adolescent girl, and a purported author of a book within the book all tell their respective stories in this occasionally confusing but kind-hearted, funny, and well written ode to life, death, and loves both lost and newly-discovered.  The point of view changes between Leo, an eighty-something ex-locksmith whose last days on earth are consumed with thoughts of an ex-love and a lost son, Alma, a quirky fifteen year old girl who is trying to maintain her sanity amidst the strange actions of her younger brother and withdrawn mother, and Zvi Litvinoff, an expatriate Polish Jew living in Chile who supposedly wrote a book called The History of Love that Alma’s father gave to her mom on their honeymoon.  It’s hard at first to see how these three disparate narrative threads co-mingle, but gradually they do, fed on by suggestion and the name Alma.

It’s a dreamy sort of book, particularly in Leo’s stream-of-consciousness ramblings of regret and humor (his interactions with his friend Bruno are priceless).  Past and future collide and individual characters occasionally blur with one another.  It makes for a lack of clarity in some places, but maybe this is a comment of the author on the conditions of her characters – they all press for clarity and explanation in their lives where there is none.  So in one respect The History of Love is not an easy read, but keep plugging if you do pick this book up – it’s worth the read, but just a bit challenging with the changing points of view.  The individual voices will grab you soon enough, especially Alma’s and Leo’s.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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