The Lava In My Bones, Barry Webster, 384 pgs, Arsenal Pulp Press, arsenalpulp.com, $16.95
After several attempts to get into this book, I am throwing in the towel. I thought I would really enjoy it because I generally like weird books, and The Lava In My Bones sounded weird indeed: a magical realist novel about a man who eats rocks and a girl who sweats honey and the mother who is trying to save their souls.
There were many things to like. Webster has a great grasp on the physical world: nothing is static, everything is in constant motion, shifting and crashing. He uses the literary techniques of magic realism to extend this geological transformation to the bodies and psyches of his characters.
It’s very cleverly done — and yet, it left me a little cold. Among all the bodies and rocks and cliffs and fluids and fire is the story of a man who just isn’t that interesting. The main character, Sam, is a reluctant protagonist, a weak man who reacts rather than acts. I just couldn’t care about him, and so I kept putting the book down and moving on to other things. The writing itself is quite good but my eyes kept skipping right off the page.
Once you get past all the rock-eating, honey-sweating and penis-swapping, The Lava In My Bones is a tale of personal relationships and family dynamics; conventional subject matter wrapped in an unconventional package. I’m sure there are many who would get a kick out of seeing Webster’s twist on family dynamics. For me, though, it’s just not my thing. (AG Pasquella)