This review was written for and first published by Bookmunch.
Isaac and the Egg has been much hyped by its publisher, crossing my radar months before publication. While this would normally make me somewhat wary, the synopsis proved too intriguing to resist (well done, publicists).
It tells the story of the titular Isaac, a man broken by grief. In the depths of a cold winter he drives himself to a lonely wood where he unexpectedly finds an unusual creature. Fearing for its wellbeing, he decides to take it home. The tale is mostly told from Isaac’s point of view but there are occasional sections where the creature gets to share its thoughts and insights. These offer a fresh perspective on this strange human who is obviously hurting so badly. One of the strengths of the story is the creature’s back-story, although this takes some time to reveal.
The book opens with Isaac standing on a bridge, ‘unsure whether to jump or not’. He cannot remember driving there. He has been drinking heavily and regularly but this is not the only cause of the blanks in time he has been suffering. Struggling to cope with the unrelenting pain of loss, he screams into the void – and something screams back. It is enough to distract him from whatever else he might have done next.
Isaac’s life is a mess. He is neither eating nor sleeping properly. He neglects basic self care. He has shut out the many people who wish to try to help him. At first it seems that the creature he brings home is only adding to the many problems he is failing to deal with. Gradually, there is a shift as looking after and hiding this strange new companion serves as a diversion from the damaging fallout resulting from Isaac’s raw grief. As time passes the reader may ask if Isaac is caring for the creature or is it caring for him.
I found this a slow burn of a story, the first third providing necessary background but lacking sufficient tautness to keep me fully engaged. Clever use of foreshadowing encourages the reader to judge certain of Isaac’s actions, and why he is assiduously avoiding particular places. The creature remains something of an enigma until close to the end.
Although a story exploring loss and guilt, there is also humour. The creature’s actions, attributes and attitude mock many human traits. However badly Isaac is behaving, the sense of overwhelming grief is well conveyed. He is bereft and adrift but not as alone as he wishes to be – something he will eventually come to appreciate.
Having early on questioned why I had fallen for the hype, by halfway through I was drawn into and enjoying the tale. What lifts it is how the creature came to be Isaac’s sidekick. To go into further detail would risk detracting from future readers’ right to experience spoiler free developments. I may have been put off initially by certain elements that seemed implausible, but by simply going along with what was apparently being suggested, it all came to make satisfying sense.
The denouement offers hope for when grief becomes overwhelming. If this sounds heavy then rest assured, while the topic certainly is, how it is handled here makes it accessible. Although poignant, the story remains entertaining.
Any Cop?: An impressive debut in which a highly unusual character is used convincingly to effect. A moving but never cloying read.
Super review, Jackie. I more often than not avoid hyped books and I’ve been unsure about this one. You’ve helped me decide whether it’s worth my time, thank you 😊