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Big Ray: A Novel by Michael Kimball

Big Ray: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Michael Kimball

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297378,207 (3.85)2
Title:Big Ray: A Novel
Authors:Michael Kimball
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Big Ray by Michael Kimball




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Whenever I am thinking about my father being dead, I feel like I am being somebody else. Whenever I am not thinking about my father being dead, I feel like I am being myself.
The book opens with the narrator's obese father having just died. Alternating chapters relate short fragments, culled from past and present, that link together to form a chain, a heavy clanking chain dragged for years between father and son. There's a measured distance, an aloofness, between narrator and story. It made me uneasy. Reasons for the distance abound. It still made me uneasy. The novel depicts the complexity inherent in the relationship between parent and adult child. The quote on the cover says "it's funny and terrifying." I might have laughed twice. I personally did not find it terrifying, though haunting perhaps, and certainly bleak. A quote on the back describes the book as "disturbing in the most extraordinary ways." This is one of the most useless descriptions of a book that I have ever read. And it came from another writer. I can't get past the distance in the book. Did I mention it making me uneasy. I didn't understand the narrator, but I did understand him. Maybe that is it. I felt like the ground wasn't solid and so I didn't know where to stand. I'm giving it three stars. Goodreads says this means I "liked it" though that does not seem an adequate description of my reaction. I feel some ambiguity toward the book, but it's the kind of ambiguity I don't care to dissect. Is this what it means to feel extraordinarly disturbed... ( )
  S.D. | Apr 4, 2014 |
This is a fantastic novel. A young man reflects upon his large (500 pounds) and troubled father who has just died alone in his apartment. It is rather short (less than 200 pages) and written using about five hundred clever, reflective, and short paragraphs, that range from one sentence to half a page. The short bits work like scattered thoughts and remembrances of a thirty-eight year old son trying to collect himself. How does he really feel about losing a father who was not an easy man to relate to, in any way, for anyone? There is some very twisted humor that keeps the book moving between some pretty troubling memories and other philosophical thoughts on life, death, and what our relationships mean to us. I will be rereading this book very soon, because it's a quick read, reaches deep into your heart, and is very satisfying. ( )
  jphamilton | Jul 1, 2013 |
A middle aged man is coming to terms with his father’s death and in fact his life. Big Ray is not a nice man; his size and his temper define him. So when he dies, Daniel is mostly relived but it is still the death of his father. “For most of my life I have been afraid of my father. After he died, I was afraid to be a person without a father, but I also felt relieved he was dead. Everything about my father seem complicated like that.”

Big Ray is Daniel’s attempts to recount his father’s life, each paragraph is a single thought that slowly piece together a sense of who Big Ray was; at least in the eyes of his son. This narrative style works really well, you experience the emotions Daniel has and it really drives the story along with the mystery and sometimes randomness of his thoughts.

This is a brutal novel. Daniel ultimately hates his father; from the abuse as a child to trying to understand him as an adult. You can see the pain and hurt come through in the narrative, but there is still a tenderness and sadness at the loss of his father. All relationships are not as they seem; there are the unusual and even unsettling truths of Big Ray but then you have the little glimpses of what might be considered love towards his father.

I read this book in one sitting, not something I normally do. From the very start I was hooked, the narrative style just has nice balance between tenderness and brutality, beauty and mystery. I’m a little concerned for author Michael Kimball because that pain and anger Daniel had towards his father felt way too real. Highly emotional and disturbing; the internal conflict of a dysfunctional and abusive relationship was captured really well in this novel.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2013/01/18/book-review-big-ray/ ( )
  knowledgelost | Mar 30, 2013 |
Big Ray may be a fairly short book at just 182 pages, but its contents certainly do punch well above its weight. Weight being one of the main topics covered in this reflective, semi-autobiographical book in 500 entries, matching the weight of Daniel’s father, Big Ray, when he passed away.

Each entry tells the reader a snippet of life with Big Ray. As the entries accumulate, my feelings became confused. Should I feel sorry for this large man with numerous medical problems whose activities were restricted by his size? When I read about the abuse his wife and children received at his hands, I felt guilty about feeling sorry for him. When I read about Daniel trying to relate to Big Ray, I felt sorry for them both.

You might have guessed now that this slim novel carries a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s powerful, and kudos to Michael Kimball for being able to communicate so much in just a few sentences. It’s easy to feel Daniel’s pain and conflicting emotions. This novel packs as big a punch as a 500 page chunkster. It describes the complexities of family relationships – the good, the bad and the ugly. It is also somewhat of a journal of discovery for Daniel, as he adjusts to life without a father, examining the man he both loved and hated.

I enjoyed how Kimball examined the feelings of his protagonist in this novel, leading up to a big punch where Big Ray’s character (and our sympathies) completely changed. This is emotion laid bare, told succinctly and directly. Definitely worth a read.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for the ARC. ( )
  birdsam0610 | Mar 16, 2013 |
A son re-examines his life when his father dies. That his father was abusive, obese, over 500 lbs. and divorced fro his mother led to many conflicted feelings. Another novel told in short paragraphs, excerpts of father and son, their family, their lives together and apart. I seem to have a hard time with this type of structure. I take in quite a bit of information, I'm told what the characters are feeling, but I don't seem to have any feelings for the characters. Just not the kind of book for me, but parts of it were very interesting. I will say that I admire the honesty of the feelings in this book, they were very raw and personal. ( )
  Beamis12 | Dec 21, 2012 |
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"Big Ray's temper and obesity define him. When Big Ray dies, his son feels mostly relief, dismissing his other emotions. Yet years later, the adult son must reckon with the memory of his father's outsized presence. In this stunning novel, a man comes to terms with his father's death-and with his life. Narrated in more than five hundred brief entries, Big Ray becomes more and more complex and intricate as the son's brave confession moves between past and present, between the father's death and life, between an abusive childhood and adult understanding"--Jacket.… (more)

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