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No Book but the World

by Leah Hager Cohen

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14225193,796 (3.51)2
"A literary novel about adult siblings, a sister and her autistic brother, and what happens when the brother is accused of the murder of a local boy - who is truly responsible, and could it have been avoided if the brother had been treated differently by his parents, by his sister, by society?"--
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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
This is a well written and thought-provoking book, but as I have said before, endings must be the hardest part to write. I felt that the event at the end of the book did not fit with the rest of it. I don't think the character would have done what was presented, but that's just me (can't say more without a spoiler). Otherwise, it is a good one. ( )
  glade1 | Aug 9, 2023 |
This book was another unexpected surprise. If you read the synopsis, you could think this was going to be a who-dunit or a crime novel - it is not. This book is truly what literary fiction should be. Expertly written and deeply felt. Cohen's placement of words on the page is akin to a master artist's application of paint on a canvas. Oftentimes her turn of phrase would make me stop in my tracks and say "wow". It took me a bit longer to get through this book, but in retrospect this is not a novel I would have wanted to rush through. The writing is just that good that the extra time to savor Cohen's superb craftsmanship was well worth it. I will not give any spoilers away but if you do not finish this book to the very last page, you will be missing out - big time. Highly recommend. ( )
  Maureen_McCombs | Aug 19, 2016 |
I received a free copy through Goodreads.
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This was an interesting read. I admit, it took a little bit to fully get into the story.

When something like this happens, just how far do you go in the name of family? Ava spent most of the book reflecting on all the events that eventually led up to the present time. Would it really have been better had Fred been evaluated and diagnosed with the obvious disorder that he has? Were Neel and June wrong to let their children live outside of social constraints and rules? It's all hard to say.

With no other family left, should Ava be the one to take responsibility for her brother again, after the arrangement that June had with Dave clearly did not work out? In a sense, yes and no. She did have a part in molding Fred and obviously did not provide the guidance he so sorrily needed when their parents passed away, instead she kept far away with the occasional letter and what not.

Obviously there are a lot of issues that Ava needs to work out. She presents this feeling that she thinks everyone is judging her, especially based on Fred's actions and behaviours. A lot of things are wrapped around her relationship with Fred and keeping everyone away from fully understanding Fred's obvious issues.

I wish it didn't end the way it did. By that I meant, Fred committing suicide, especially when Ava and Dennis were so close to having Fred's case tossed out of court . The ending left a heavy feeling in me, so unlike the cheery front cover of the book. ( )
  Dream24 | Jan 6, 2016 |
This was a very unexpected book! I’m not sure where I learned of it. I believe it was through Kirkus. At any rate, I remember that the description was a bit elusive but for some reason caught my attention and it got put on my “to read” list. And I am very glad I did.

Ava and Fred are siblings being raised on a farm/ex-commune by parents who “free-ranged” them. Believing that children will thrive best in such an unfettered environment to learn in their own ways and their own time.

Fred has always been uncommunicative for the most part. Rarely talks, avoids eye contact and touch, sucks his thumb, flaps his hands and likes to wander the woods alone. It becomes quite obvious early on that he suffers from quite probably some form of autism, and though the author alludes to this herself, she never really states it flat out. I think this may be because she didn’t want to single out a specific disorder, or add another shadow to an already misunderstood disorder.

The story is told in dual time frames, when they were children on the farm and the current day. Fred has been arrested for a horrific crime and Ava is trying to figure out what happened, if he really did it, And as she begins to try and work with his attorney to help in the case, she also realizes that her parents free form parenting that precluded having Fred diagnosed has added to the difficulty in presenting a defense for him.

During her stay near the prison, she begins to reminisce about their childhood, offering a glimpse into the mind and shaping of Fred. Including an incident where play with a young boy almost resulted in tragedy that shines a beam of genuine understanding into the naivete of the mind of one like Fred and how often the story is much more than it seems to be.

The book is a fascinating glimpse into life and scratching the surface of the mind of autism. But, not only of autism, but simply how another mind can so differently process the world around them. It is also about the families of the “challenged”, the fears and realities of what could befall them when they are left behind with the parents die, when they are turned over to the care of strangers, or turned out by society.

There seems to be a lot of people who didn’t like this book and I have to wonder if they really gave a chance to the story that it really told and not the one they expected to hear. Or maybe because the story was a difficult one to open to. Giving humanity to the discarded is often difficult for many to accept. We want the simple and quick judgement, not the understanding that takes time and patience. Or maybe it is that we are afraid if we take the time to truly explore beneath the surface to understand, we may find the differences between us is not so great as we previously imagined.

“No Book But the World” is an amazing work of fiction. A wonderful and heart wrenching view into both the darkness and light in the depths of human experience, in love, family and responsibility. Leah Hagen Cohen is a beautiful voice in the land of literature and I look forward to reading more of her in the future.

SephiPiderWitch
06/04/2015 ( )
  sephibitchwitch | Jun 9, 2015 |
This story, if true, might break your heart. Even as a novel, NO BOOK BUT THE WORLD will leave you sad and angry at the waste of a life.

Ava and her younger brother Fred have been raised by two parents who are free thinkers. They believe that most school systems are confining and putting a name to mental difficulty is labeling so also confining, not free. Therefore, they run their own school and do not get Fred, who clearly has mental difficulties, the help he needs.

Ava begins her story as an adult. Fred is in trouble with the law and hundreds of miles away. The book then consists, alternately, of her point of view and that of her best friend/sister-in-law, husband, and, finally, poor Fred.

The book goes back and forth from present, while Fred is in jail, to past. Descriptions of their childhood were overwritten sometimes. But the reader does need to know and understand how Ava and Fred were raised, how Fred dealt with his world, and how his parents, as free thinkers, just let him be.

The writing is beautiful. It made me think of Ian McEwan. ( )
  techeditor | May 17, 2015 |
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"A literary novel about adult siblings, a sister and her autistic brother, and what happens when the brother is accused of the murder of a local boy - who is truly responsible, and could it have been avoided if the brother had been treated differently by his parents, by his sister, by society?"--

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