I read this novel in the span of two days and now I'm tempted to pick it up and read it again. I was absolutely engorged by the fast-paced nature and despondent tone of What Beauty There Is. I found myself marveling at the talent Cory Anderson was able to display through each sentence. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
First, the aesthetics. The cover is thematic without being too on-the-nose, and it embodies the cool and calculating calamity the storyline will throw you into.
Each chapter is inked with a design reminiscent of the cover, and not a chapter went by that I didn't stop to admire its intricacy.
Now, the characters. Jack, his little brother Matty, and Ava are beset with tragedy throughout the length of their very short lives. Within the first few pages, you find out that 17-year-old Jack and 7/8-year-old Matty's mother committed suicide and Jack's well-oiled wheels in his head starts turning around a central plot: What will they do to survive the Idaho winter? You are immediately plunged into their fraught lives as they race to escape Bardem, who gave me The Lovely Bones vibes, and who laundered money with their consequently imprisoned father. However, their father tucked the money away in a blue briefcase, and now Bardem is after the boys.
Jack and Matty are force to leave their house, which is being auctioned off, and figure out a way to live off of a few cans of food and less than $20. Ava, our other protagonist and daughter of Bardem, becomes a central pillar of support for Jack and Matty as they navigate their way through a world iced over with something malicious lurking underneath.
This novel isn’t simply a thriller. It is a tale of poverty, addiction, family ties, and two people loving each other out of mutual understanding and loneliness. The prose is as icy and forbidding as the setting, and creeps up from the pit of your stomach and strangles your heart. You can pick each sentence apart and find something new at each turn. The characters will linger with me for the foreseeable future. Jack, Matty, and Ava will always have my heart. I'm anxiously awaiting the next installment in the series.