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The Ecstatic, Victor Lavalle - a review


Anthony is the ultimate in unreliable narrators. This books is full of surreal scenes, twisted logic, impossible events and a touch of magic, but how much of Anthony’s account can we believe? Sitting here, the day after finishing this astounding book, I struggle to untangle what actually happens in the story. I think Anthony returns to his childhood home where his sister, mother and grandmother live. I think they are afraid for him, certainly in the opening paragraphs it seems he is not capable of looking after himself, and yet, very soon after living with his family he sees himself as taking care of all of them, working numerous jobs, writing a book, searching for love, driving them across states for a beauty pageant, and ensuring both grandmother and Ledric (a friend he may have met at a very weird fat camp) get the medical attention they need. There are other strange characters, including “Uncle Arms”, The President, and a loan shark called Ishkabibble who claims Anthony is his only friend. It’s darkly funny, probably best categorised as magical realism, and it’s a wonderful book.


Victor Lavalle has become one of my favourite authors. The Changeling, Big Machine and The Ballad of Black Tom are also incredible novels, beautifully written with strange and carefully chaotic plots. His characters are richly drawn, each deeply flawed in a myriad of ways. I need to pick up his short story collection next.


Other reviews of Victor Lavalle’s books on my blog -

The Changeling

Big Machine

The Ballad of Black Tom

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