“Dates only make us aware of how numbered our days are, how much closer to death we are for each one we cross off. From now on, Punzel, we’re going to live by the sun and the seasons.’ He picked me up and spun me around, laughing.’Our days will be endless.”
― Claire Fuller, Our Endless Numbered Days
Well hello there, strangers. Apologies for the hiatus. While you have been going about your everyday lives, eating your gluten-free spinach wraps and debating the merits of furnishing your apartment with Ikea vs. vintage, I have been locked away from society and all that it entails, absorbing new books through a unique third eyelid that only book reviewers possess (checks notes) …I mean, I got lost in Powell’s in January and have just now found my way out.
But now that I’ve made it back into the real world, I have an entire lineup of books to talk about, starting with…you guessed it…Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller. It was just published in the US this past March by Tin House Books (go Portland!) and is Fuller’s first novel.
I came across it during one of my many forays for freedom through Powell’s. I was instantly suspicious. I recognized the book from Tumblr (so I follow Tin House Books, and they were very excited about the release of this book) and it was flying off the shelves at Powell’s, and it had an inoffensively vague cover with a title that left its content completely open to interpretation. From appearances alone, it could have been a soppy romance, or one of those tragic soppy romances, where someone is dying, or it could have been something else equally vague. I was judging this book hard, is what I’m saying.
But there was no need for that. For once I picked it up off the shelf, and once I started flipping through pages, and Fuller’s weighty and delectable prose began to speak to me, I was instantly hooked. I was so impressed I took it home with me, and proceeded to devour the entire novel that same day. And certainly what I discovered is that none of my original prejudices rang true. There was very little soppiness, and as for romance…if you could call anything in this book romantic, it would be a thoroughly maddeningly twisted and macabre kind of romance.
It’s not the lengthiest work ever written, but that’s not a bad thing. Part of its strength comes from its brevity. The young protagonist, Peggy, is taken by her father from their family home to the middle of the forest in Germany, there to be raised in the belief that they are the last two people left on the earth. The audience is never expected to believe this along with Peggy – from the first page, we are afforded more information than the unreliable narrator. The book is also written in a flashback style, and so we know both her future and her past, or at least pieces of – these pieces which slowly come together until the last twist. Which twist comes as a surprise purely because up to that point, we as the audience have been led to believe that any surprises in the narrator’s life are revealed to us before she learns about them.
The writing is at once calm and run through with a deep turbulence, almost an anger. There are certain writers, or certain books, where the prose flows with a strength of its own and the plot is almost secondary to the words themselves – this is one of those novels. This is a good thing, because the plot itself is – while interesting, and different, and superbly executed – was also a little weak on its own, and the twist ending itself was (in my opinion) sadly predictable, surprising us only due to the way it was presented and not through any merits of its own innate ability to surprise.
Fuller has said that she wrote the story after reading about an eleven-year old boy who said he had spent the last five years living with his father in the forests of Germany. The story was fake, but the idea stuck – and such was Our Endless Numbered Days born.
Overall, I’d compare this book to novels like Room by Emma Donoghue and The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. If you enjoyed those books, then you’ll like this one. Probably. I don’t know you, I don’t know what you like. No one can tell you what to do – go out there and read it. It was definitely one of the best books I’ve read in the past couple of months, so take that as you will. That this is only Fuller’s debut novel is very exciting, and I’ll be looking out for her in the future.
Also, keep updated, as I have an entire list of exciting (and not-so exciting) new releases to talk about coming up!