Book Review | In search of life’s meaning
Book: The Edge of the World
Authors: Julian Iragorri and Lou Aronica
Reviewer: Glenville Ashby
Julian Iragorri and Lou Aronica traverse time, cities, and cultures in The Edge of the World. It is a deftly penned narrative based on what a famous Austrian psychologist called “the will to meaning”.
The authors juggle scenes, switching from the 1920s South American country of Legado to the hub of university and business life decades later in the United States.
In this showcase of art imitating life, the authors capture our attention with a tale of twists and turns.
Their characters desperately search for meaning. They battle a ubiquitous void despite worldly comfort. Exasperated, theirs becomes an existential quest where folk magic and mysticism take on a salvific quality.
These seemingly disparate characters ultimately come together forming a well-weaved gestalt that defines the authors’ work.
The protagonist, Alex, is an insightful executive pestered by Opal, his bad-tempered wife. They lock horns in a contentious divorce. Well heeled, debonair, and gaudy, his hail-fellow demeanour makes him a likeable character.
His 24th-floor Park Avenue office is superbly appointed, every item mirroring his lofty ambitions. His sanguine composure is assaulted by pressing business demands and the unforgiving expectations of others. He removes himself from the fray seeking the quietude of nature – “I need you to cancel my appointments for the next two weeks starting on Monday,” he tells his secretary.
His treacly girlfriend, for all her affection, is no substitute for his upcoming yoga retreat.
In the harried world of mergers and acquisitions, Alex is king and his presence is readily sought. His cadre is convinced that his absence stymies the effectiveness of the corporation: “He hadn’t been worried about stepping away from the corporation for a couple of weeks, but now he was beginning to wonder if he should be.”
In addition, there is the indefatigable Dro, a brilliant mind who sets his sights on studying at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The odds do not favour him at the outset – “My English is not good yet but my mind is very good,” he concedes. Ever determined, the 19-year-old from Legado must show his hand. “I had the second highest score in our national exams – good for any school in South America. My calculus scores were the highest. I am proficient at differential equations and as you know, this is the essence of any science at MIT – even economics.”
He wins over just about everyone he encounters including an illustrious diplomat, with whom he enjoys a prurient relationship that eventually comes to a surprisingly devastating end.
Also impressive is the beloved Tia Vidente, a doyenne whose prophetic pronouncements are well known and respected.
We glimpse details of her craft:
“Usually, what [Vidente] saw in colours was enough to give her useful messages for those who requested readings from her. The colours had always been reliable to her. Sometimes, though, she needed to extend her vision. If she sent herself deeply enough into the space outside of herself, she could see actual images.”
We also meet Khaled, a merchant from Palestine who settles in Legado. He is arguably the most intriguing of the characters.
Khaled is rocked by the tragic death of his wife and kids back home but never confirms the dreadful news.
Providence favours this emotionally wrought soul. On the heels of his family’s supposed passing, Khaled’s chance encounter with “very possibly the most beautiful image he’d ever had a chance to behold,” opens a new chapter in a life that is wanting. Her appeal has him aquiver. He dotes over her; a changed man he becomes.
Pregnancy follows, but so does the unexpected smirk of Fate.
The spectre of death, including martyrdom, lurks, a haunting reminder of life’s fragility. Even a simmering insurgency threatens to blanket the once stable Legado. Against a backdrop of access, business, wealth, and worldly accomplishments, life’s vagaries are ever-present, invariably in control. Short of wisdom, there’s delusion and a desperate search for respite, for purposefulness and wholeness.
It is from this interesting tapestry of people and events that The Edge of the World is created. Measured and well-cadenced, the plot seamlessly unfolds with little in the way of predictability, underscoring the underlying strength of this work.
Orchestrating the confluence of time, people, and places is no easy feat. Brilliantly and imaginatively, the authors seamlessly accomplish the improbable.
Theirs is a definitive message: For all life’s allure, there is an ineffable and more enduring experience we must grasp.
The Edge of the World delivers philosophical truths, none more than the indelible words of one of its characters: “The plants tell you what they need. You only have to listen. Listened.”
Surely, the plants, like our restless spirits know, what they sorely need. If only we listen.
Publisher: The Story Plant, Stamford, CT
Available at Amazon
Ratings: Highly recommended
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