Thursday, September 9, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry - Not for Bedtime

After The Time Traveler's Wife, one of my favorite books of all time, I was a-tingle at the prospect of reading Her Fearful Symmetry. The build-up was exquisite. My husband gave it to me for Christmas, but, as we celebrated out of town, the gift I opened on Christmas day was a poem he'd written that spelled out the title of the book in the first letters of each line, while the hardback copy lay at home on my pillow. Symbolic, because I always read at bedtime. But Her Fearful Symmetry is so creepy that it was hard for me to get to sleep once I was immersed in it. As a matter of fact, it literally gave me nightmares - well at least one. I woke up one night frantic because it felt like my spirit had left my body and I was fighting and clawing to return. I was sobbing and my husband had to soothe me back into sleep. I attributed the experience to the book's theme, which in my opinion encompasses the idea of the tenuousness of the soul's connection to the physical plane.

This book is not your typical scary: there's no bloodshed, hacking or stabbing, simply a back-of-the-neck prickling, goosebump-producing, ghostly good read. It is also touching, sad and sensitive, with vividly drawn characters and an incredibly unique plot with mind-blowing twists. Ms. Niffenegger forces you to shift your sympathies more than once as her characters surprise and shock. It is a book by a master-storyteller, but not one who follows a formula or conforms to the convention of genre. Just as The Time Traveler's Wife defies category (though the film seemed to relegate it to romance) Her Fearful Symmetry transcends it.