Going into this book, I was neither blown away nor hooked by the synopsis. Heck, I don’t even recall reading the synopsis. However, once the author started peeling back layers of complexity, I began seeing these characters in a way that was rather epiphanic.
For instance, I realized Eldon was a bit of an unreliable narrator: he’s not looking forward to the prospect of wishing, and thus he skews everything to fit his own pessimistic outlook on the world. Furthermore, the idea of wishing is presented as a very precarious miracle–Madison is a small, dry town, but it is equally packed with content and regretful, practical and foolish, happy and miserable, wishers, and this story is all about the flawed narrative of Madison and how its wishers live with their choices.
And that’s exactly what I found so beautiful about the message of this book! Even given the golden opportunity to make the perfect wish, life won’t be perfect for us, because we ourselves aren’t perfect.
And really, Eldon himself is a most riveting anomaly; I went through a tornado of feelings trying to form an opinion of him, from liking his mild cynicism, to hating his sense of angst and entitlement, to being put off by his selfishness and violence, before finally seeing the layers of redemption, perceptiveness, and kindness in him. Eldon is an utterly confused, troubled, and complex train wreck, and I love him.
In that, I think this book is terrific. The author likens wishing to both a religion or a cult in this book by suggesting the consequences of wishing is a double-edged sword, and I found the discussion perceptive and compelling. The analysis of what drives these characters’ lives and of what wishing can do for people is built up in one big narrative, and I had a blast puzzling all of it together.