Opening. Poet Forrest Gander opens his first work of fiction, As a Friend, with a description of childbirth that will tend to lead childless readers to remain so. It’s the birth of protagonist Les to a teenage mother. The structure of As a Friend entails four connected stories, with Les tying them together. Les is a quirky and charismatic individual who works as a land surveyor. His friend, Clay, emulates him and then betrays him. Gander’s descriptive language is poetic throughout this odd book. Les is made larger than life in some respects, almost godlike, and his flaws seem pedestrian and defining at the same time. While married to Cora, Les lives with Sarah. As a Friend is loaded with lamentations, and part of it soars with such emotional intensity that I found I had to pause a while before reading on.
Rating: Two-star (Mildly Recommended)