Toxic. For some “meat and potatoes” readers, reading a literary novel can be like being told to eat one's vegetables because they’re good for you. The taste is often less appealing, especially when plot can be confusing or absent, or the subject matter is depressing. The latest novel from Ben Marcus, The Flame Alphabet, may be an acquired taste for most readers. This is a dystopic novel in which the speech of children causes disease, while the reaction of parents is to continue to love and be drawn to the suffering from this toxicity. Our desire for community comes through in the odd way in which religious practice is conducted. You may not read a stranger novel this year if you approach this one. Sometimes, it’s worth the stretch to explore something imaginative and unusual. For some readers, this novel is worth the stretch.
Rating: Four-star (Highly Recommended)
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