“The Book of Form and Emptiness” is a story about love of books, understanding, nonjudgmental tolerance and the insignificance of material things. In general, the story is told by the book, which may sound obvious, but in this case, the book is a form of being. And the book is telling the story of Benny’s life (except when Benny chimes in).
After Benny stabs himself with talking scissors, he is hospitalized in the pediatric psychiatry ward of Children’s Hospital. While there he meets Alice. Alice leaves him strange notes and when he comes out of the hospital those notes cause him to start going to the main Library of his unidentified west coast town.
At the Library, he meets the Aleph and the Bottle Man (the b-man). He decides to stop going to school all together and goes to the library instead. At the library, he has all sorts of adventures. “The Library always felt like a mirror of the world.”
In the meantime, Annabelle has bought a book entitled “The Ancient Zen Art of Clearing Your Clutter and Revolutionizing Your Life.” Unfortunately, the book does very little to help Annabelle clear her clutter, but she begins to communicate with its author.
Although Benny is rehospitalized and child protective services threatens to place him in foster care because of the condition of their home, everything turns out okay in the end.
The novel is less about the story than about all of our stories and our distraction with material things instead of focusing on each other. The novel also highlights the importance of libraries and the very special people who are librarians. And of course, the importance of books!
“Every person is trapped in their own particular bubble of delusion, and it’s every person’s task in life to break free. Books can help. [Books] can make the past the present, take you back in time and help you remember. [Books] can show you things, shift your realities and widen your world, but the work of waking up is up to you.”
The novel is the recent winner of the Women’s Prize and can be reserved at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.