Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa by Benjamin Constable

Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa by Benjamin Constable © 2013 Gallery

Ben Constable has an imaginary cat, named Cat, and a friend named Tomomi Ishikawa, who may or may not be imaginary.  The blurred lines between the “real” fictional story Ben is experiencing and the “fictional” fictional story Ben is imagining could have made this story a confusing mess, but the author finely balanced the competing realities into a thought-provoking and suspenseful read.  So, hats off to the real Benjamin Constable.

After her suicide, Tomomi posthumously delivers to her writer friend, Ben, a treasure hunt to find clues about Tomomi’s troubled past.  The clues reveal that Tomomi committed multiple murders, or at least wrote tales about committing multiple murders.  When it turns out Tomomi is not dead after all, Ben is peeved, but relieved, until Tomomi imprisons him, and he is no longer sure if Tomomi’s murderous past was fiction or truth.  For that matter, he begins to wonder if Tomomi herself is fiction or truth.  By the end, I didn’t know the answers to any of these questions and didn’t care because I was pondering the conundrum of “reality” in a story that is all made up in the first place.

Three Lives is weird and ambiguous, with strong depictions of places and here-and-gone characters, and crisp, if sometimes confounding, dialogue.  It has an experimental feel to it.  If you need logic and a neat conclusion, this book will frustrate you.  If you can enjoy a journey for the journey rather than the destination, then you will be highly entertained, as I was.  Benjamin Constable’s Three Lives takes its place on my bookshelf of keepers, that bookshelf over there with the cat on it, if that is a real cat, or a real bookshelf.

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