A LIFE TRANSPARENT by Tood Keisling tells the story of Donovan Candle, a man with a devoted wife and a dead-end life. Donovan once had dreams of being a writer, but real life and the pressures of earning a steady paycheck intruded and he soon lost his dream and settled for a boring but stable job and a life of average.
One day he finds himself flickering in and out of existance. Literally disappearing from the world and standing in a land of gray shadows inhabited by white, alien creatures. At first it’s for a split second, but the bouts of disappearance get longer, and his wife is no longer noticing he’s there. What’s going on?
Things go from strange to dangerous when Donovan’s wife is kidnapped (in a scene that will sadden/infuriate cat lovers) and held by a mysterious man known as Aliester Dullington. Dullinton wants Donovan to perform a task for him, to return an errant sheep to the Monochrome, a land full people whose lives have ceased to matter and who have simply disappeared from the real world.
This is an intriguing premise, and Keisling handles it well, giving us a character with which many can relate, a man who once had a dream and watched it die the death of a thousand small disappointments. He has become settled, boring, bland. And he will suffer the fate of all who have done the same before him. But he has a chance to change things, and he’s going to do his best to do so.
The book has interesting things to say about life and pursuing what you wanted instead of settling for what you became. The writing is tight and the story never flags. Despite some fairly heavy concepts, the prose never becomes pedantic, and the back and forth between Donovan and his brother Micheal is real and touching in spots.
My one complaint (and it’s a minor one) is that the ending is wrapped up just a little too neatly. I would have like perhaps a bit more ambiguity with Donovan’s decision in the consequences there of. There was a place I thought was the perfect ending about five pages before the book actually ended, which would have left enough room for doubt to make the story just that little bit more intriguing. But this is a small thing and certainly doesn’t detract a great deal from what is a really good story about life and how it should be lived, if you don’t want to find yourself relegated to obscurity.