Review: Exley by Brock Clarke

exleyWhat a strange but interesting book. I was drawn to this cover in its complete simplicity and in that the letters in “Exley” also form a human face. It depicts the quirky nature of this tale, in which a young boy believes his dad, who has left his mom, has gone to Iraq. His dad is obsessed with theauthor Frederick Exley, apparently a real writer who wrote a “fictional memoir” called A Fan’s Notes. The boy, in turn, becomes obsessed with Exley and the book, feeling as if the book and its author will bring his father back.

Told through the boy, Miller’s, perspective and also through the perspective of his psychologist, Dr. ___, the chapters teeter between truth and lies. Miller has a child’s imagination and intelligence, and fabricates the story of his dad’s deployment and subsequent return to the VA hospital, where he is in a comatose state. As the book continues, the truth becomes more and more muddled until at the end I was like, “so … wait. WHAT was the truth?”

I’m not sure I have it figured out, but I will say that this was a well-written book that held my interest and had me invested in Miller’s story and whether or not it was all true. The perspective of Dr. ___ offers an adult take on the situation as he, too, attempts to find out if Miller is telling the truth or if it’s all just going on in his head. He gets caught up in the Exley mania, as well, perhaps even more so than Miller.

Cleverly told. Glad I decided to give it a try.

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