A book takes on a life of its own in the spectacular fourth novel by writer, filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest Ruth Ozeki (Booker finalist for A Tale for the Time Being). The Book of Form and Emptiness is a slow-burning novel about a family in crisis, as well as a metafictional dialogue between book and author.
Jazz clarinetist Kenji Oh dies in an accident a few yards from his home, leaving behind his wife, Annabelle, and their son, Benny, to carry on in the aftermath. It's a trauma that will continue to reverberate throughout the novel, precipitating in Annabelle an attachment to objects and in Benny an anxious sensitivity to the voices those objects contain. As the clutter threatens to both bury them and drive them apart, one voice begins to rise above the others in 13-year-old Benny's mind: his book's.
The Book of Form and Emptiness is Benny's book, his guide through the loss of his father, the ongoing tension with his mother, a circuitous journey through mental health facilities, his first surges of puberty and a crush that promises to expand his heart and mind. Even as it tackles heavy subjects like consumerism and environmental catastrophe, and despite its layers of grief, this novel is filled with hope, compassion and more than a little wonder, as devoted books fly off shelves to meet the people who need them most. Ozeki's books consistently nourish the soul, so one can imagine they are foremost among the ones taking flight. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness