Friday 27 November 2020

337 - M. Jonathan Lee

337 follows the life of Samuel Darte whose mother vanished when he was in his teens. It was his brother, Tom who found her wedding ring on the kitchen table along with the note.

While their father pays the price of his mother’s disappearance, Sam learns that his long-estranged Gramma is living out her last days in a nursing home nearby.

Keen to learn about what really happened that day and realising the importance of how little time there is, he visits her to finally get the truth.

Soon it’ll be too late and the family secrets will be lost forever. Reduced to ashes. But in a story like this, nothing is as it seems. 

What did I think?

Oh my goodness, this book completely blew me away.  The writing is sublime and the story is so powerful and thought-provoking that you can't help but look back over your own choices in life.  The book title is also a little quirky, I'm not sure whether it means something particular (I was wondering weeks or months) but if you've ever keyed in 5376616 on your calculator and turned it round to spell giggles, you'll see the magic behind the title.

Before I talk about the story, I have to mention the book format.  I'm not usually a fan of hardbacks, simply because they're not the easiest to read in bed, but 337 is just the perfect size and weight to make it easy to handle, wherever your preferred reading location.  It's also worth pointing out that the beautiful hardback edition has a double cover of light on one side and dark on the other.  It doesn't matter which way round you start reading as the book directs you to flip over when required and I loved this quirky touch.  You obviously don't get that on kindle!

I love the way the story starts very visually by zooming in from above onto a family picnic.  The family may appear normal from the outside, but drill down a bit further and they are far from happy.  Family is at the heart of this novel as past and present actions are examined and the various mysteries of the Darte family are revealed.  It wasn't just the questions zooming around my head that kept me rapidly turning pages, it was also the perfect fluidity of M. Jonathan Lee's breathtaking prose.

There are times when nothing much is happening but far from being boring, my eyes were glued to the page by M. Jonathan Lee's ability to wonderfully describe the minutiae of the mundane.  What a talent!  It's so very thought-provoking seeing how our actions impact others, how two people can recall the same memory very differently and how we wait too long to build bridges (when it can never really be too late).  The Darte family aren't just dysfunctional, they are fractured into so many small pieces that they can never be put back together, especially when pieces are missing.

337 is a heartbreaking novel of love, loss and the snowball effect of our actions.  As the final word caused me to gasp out loud I could see the whole story rewinding in my mind and playing an alternative version, rather like the double cover of the book itself.  Absolutely brilliant, 337 is a literary masterpiece and I really want to read it again to appreciate the fine nuances.  Take a bow, Mr Lee; bravo!

Thank you to Hideaway Fall for sending me a beautiful hardback to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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