Remainder by Tom McCarthy
It’s a shame that it has been almost a year since anyone checked out this book. Tom McCarthy’s Remainder is a wonderfully and weirdly mesmerizing book. If I kept a list of favorite novels, it would be near the top.
Remainder’s plot is fairly simple. An unnamed narrator awakes from a coma and is given a large settlement in exchange for never discussing the events that led to his injuries. It is easy for him to uphold his part of the agreement because he does not remember those events, and suspects that there is much more that he cannot recall. In an effort to understand and reclaim his own humanity, he uses his unexpected wealth to stage detailed, constantly repeating reenactments of his memories and visions.
The book was highly praised when it was published in 2007. The New York Times called it “a work of novelistic philosophy, as disturbing as it is funny," while praising McCarthy’s “superb stylistic control and uncanny imagination.” Kirkus Reviews called it “an assured work of existential horror.” Believer Magazine, in bestowing its book-of-the-year award, described it as “an art installation disguised as a brilliant novel.”
If these reviews sound strange, and maybe even a little contradictory, it is probably because the book itself was somewhat unusual. Remainder intentionally lacks emotion, symbolism, and highly developed characters. Instead, it is almost entirely concerned with actions and objects. Despite, or becasue ofthis, it asks some large and rather abstract questions. How does one define and understand reality? What is authenticity? What does it mean to be authentically human?
Remainder will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.
Jacob - Adult Services