I finished this book several months ago and I totally burned through it. Sooo... I don't remember much. Just consulted my pal Google and was all "Oh, yeah! Oh, yeeeah!"
Since I didn't do a preview post on this one, I'll start with that. Then let's see what else I can tell you.
You know how sometimes a book keeps coming up in your life over and over again? This was that book for me in late 2014/ early 2015. I heard it reviewed/raved about on a podcast, then another podcast. Then I read a review (notable because I generally don't read/keep up with book reviews) and spotted it on the 2015 ToB long list. When I walked into my favorite local bookstore in back in Alameda, it was right on the front table. The cover is awesome so... I bought it.
It also sounded like a neat premise and looked like a well-written book. And it was! The structure of this narrative is a large part of what makes it so great. But it's also what caused me to burn through it so quickly (I had to get to the bottom of this story) which is why I don't remember it very well.
At first, it's sort of difficult to understand what's going on -- we get some bits and pieces: the narrator, Sean, has had a severely disfiguring injury; he runs some sort of text-based role-playing game through the mail (the actual mail -- I loved this part); and there is a court case against him that is quickly dismissed. (Note: I have just delivered you that information far more directly than I received it.)
The rest of the book basically builds on all of that information -- everything is related and explanations are slowly revealed by going back in time, finishing with the incident that cause his disfigurement. As spoileriffic as we are around here, I'm not going to spoil it because I genuinely recommend this book and part of what makes it good is uncovering the truths including, and especially, the final truth about what happened to Sean's face.
There are many poignant moments, especially when Sean encounters others and their reactions to his disfigurement. Little kids are generally more accepting, but ask more questions. Many people just don't know how to react and end up stumbling over themselves. Sean's empathy in these situations is well-written and heart breaking. The author is a songwriter and his mastery of the language shines throughout.
There is a quote from Patrick deWitt on the back of my copy: "Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving" and I agree with that 100%. As I flipped through it again to write this post, I thought, "I need to read this again." And I'm not much of a re-reader, so that says a lot.