I am in love with writer Anthony Doerr’s work. I can’t tell you how happy I am to finally find his books. When Laura was ill, I lost the desire to read fiction. It was such a surprise. I am a literature major who typically devours a handful of novels a month. But now I find I toss almost everything aside, flummoxed after a chapter or two. Perhaps it is because the reality I have been living seems more extraordinary than anything on the fictional page.
But it is a joy to read Doerr’s writing. Even though his characters lives aren’t easy – his fictional figures often miscommunicate, separate and suffer great losses, there is a magic there; an enchantment with the natural world and a constant reflection on spiritual connections which operate outside of our normal range of knowing.
In his beautiful short story The Hunter’s Wife, a young girl is gifted with the ability to touch a sleeping animal or human and see their dreams.
As she gets older, she can read into the minds of dead animals and people, reporting back to their loved ones that; ‘death can seem so final, like a blade dropped through your center…[but].. the nature of death is not at all final..it is only a transition, like so many others.’
Doerr says his ambition for his writing is ‘to nudge people towards the miracles of this world’ and to ‘challenge people’s beliefs’ Last year he won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel All The Light We Cannot See. His title references the extraordinary scientific fact that we humans perceive less than one ten trillionth of the electromagnetic spectrum. In other words, our lives are built on an illusion. We feel we see and experience our world fully, but Like Doerr’s lead character Marie-Laure we are as good as blind. Of course, some people sense more than others, but it is still only a vague intimation.
To me the best of Doerr’s writing reads like poetry. At the end of All The Light We Cannot See, one character, who has suffered extraordinary loss, marvels at all the invisible radio waves in the world; ‘passing through buildings, arcing between transmitters…over the scarred and ever shifting landscapes we call nations..’ and asks ‘is it so hard to believe that souls might also travel those paths? .. That great shuttles of souls might fly about, faded but audible if you listen closely enough? They flow above the chimneys, ride the sidewalks, slip through your jacket and shirt and breastbone and lungs, pass out through the other side. The air is a library and record of every life lived, every sentence spoken, every word transmitted still reverbrating within it.’