Palimpsest: A Lucid Dream

I’ve just finished reading Palimpsest. I first read about it on io9, and what piqued my interest up until cracking the spine was that it was a story about suffering; people dealing with pain. And it certainly is.

It’s a story about individuals cut off from themselves and in search of something so unique, better, perfect, beautiful, that they can cope with whatever is haunting them. Needing an outlet for pain is something everybody can relate to and this book is filled with such captivating imagery that even your dictionary will be tired afterward.

Palimpsest by Catheryne M Valente

Catheryne M Valente sets her writing pattern right away. Using simple typography, she sets apart the real world and the other, but the writing style is what makes the real difference. It’s almost as if two people wrote the two worlds of this book. There is such a sense of depth and realism – surrealism – in each, likely so noticeable because of the stark contrast, that you can’t help noticing just how real the real parts are, and just how surreal the surreal parts are.

She plays knowingly with descriptions in both worlds, and lets your mind race and wander, varying the pace. Always, though, we return to the two worlds, the two mindsets, of the core characters. She paints a solid portrait of desperation and loss and trying to interpret and process grief by the end of the book. It’s supremely easy to get lost in the words and the images as she hurdles through the dream and real worlds of human need and desperation.

Nearing the end pages, my mind was fixed on finishing. I wanted it done so I could call it done, so I could move on, so I could understand. Having finished it, I’m not sure I fully understand, but I think what this book does best is it transcends the boundaries of logic and understanding and gets to be a book about feelings. I’m not talking chick-flick feelings; I mean what each world makes the characters, and by extension the readers, feel that communicates what each world means and why it’s so important. Despairing in the dizzying drain that is loss and uncertainty, these characters find some feeling they need in order to survive – to thrive – and their need for it becomes pure and painful. Somehow these people were lost in reality and found Palimpsest, and that belonging makes them whole.

A few days after finishing the book and setting it on a shelf, I feel twinges of nostalgia; I miss the world a little bit. As if it were a dream I wish I’d have again, I find myself thinking fondly of the city, the characters, as if I yearned to go back to Palimpsest myself.

Total: 3.5/5 stars
Addendum: I’ll probably re-read this later in life and love it, I’m sure.

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