Open Wounds

Breaking Bread not Heads

ASK THE PASSENGERS by AS King

I finished Ask the Passengers a few days ago by A.S.King. I’ve been letting it percolate and settle. Her novels do that to me. I won’t tell you what the ending is but I will tell you it is perfect. I didn’t expect it, the way A.S.King wrote that ending – having her cake and eating it too. If you read the book, and I highly recommend you do as it’s wonderful, I’d like to know what you think about the ending.

But that’s not the only thing, however veiled I’m being about gobsmacking perfect endings, that I learned from her latest book. Actually all three of the books I’ve read of hers, Everybody Sees the Ants, and Please Ignore Vera Dietz, included, demonstrate a great narrative writer’s technique.

I’ll get back to it. Hold on.

I met a Flannery O’Connor award winning author early in my writing career (long aside in progress so watch out for piratical brussel sprouts) named Rita Ciresi. I met her at a writer’s conference in Connecticut – but I don’t remember the name of it as it was a good 20 years ago. In one of her workshops she said, “One of the things I like to do the most is put my characters in a room together and let them eat. All kinds of things happen.” Let them break bread not heads. Now I know you’re thinking, he couldn’t remember the name of the conference but he could remember what Ciresi said. Hmmm. Well, deal with it.

Now it’s back to Ask The Passengers. A.S.King uses meal time – who eats what, with whom, in what room, with what drinks – to paint a tapestry of relationships that are mostly dysfunctional – though watching how they change over the course of the book is one of the subtle joys of the story. They do dishes, cook sometimes, go out into the backyard, lie on the picnic table and stare at the planes passing overhead and send them the love they cannot give to the ones they want to. She is brilliant at creating situations at home that cause her characters to interact. As a writer and reader I watch and marvel at her ability to do this.

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14 responses

  1. Should I read this if I haven’t read the book yet?

    February 7, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    • Yup. No spoilers. Not a review. Even though I loved it.

      February 7, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      • Okay. I’ll be back in the morning. I’m off to go play some Lego Lord of the Rings with my nephew.

        February 7, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      • Lego Lord of the Rings? I’m so envious. Max is past lego. I never will be. We saw a Big Bang theory a few weeks ago in which Sheldon is building the death star and it brought back such cool memories…

        February 7, 2013 at 6:47 pm

      • Yeah, my nephew is only six, so I’m lucky in that regard.

        February 7, 2013 at 7:39 pm

  2. I have this one on my bookshelf waiting for me to read it – nice to know that another individual enjoyed it!

    February 7, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    • Have you read any of her other work? Look for the running story line about Socrates. It’s brilliant storytelling and a great technique. Let me know what you think about it when you finish. Best – Joe

      February 7, 2013 at 6:49 pm

  3. Okay. Came back and finally read the post. I completely agree about Amy’s books. Her characters, and the situations she puts them in, are so real, they feel alive. And make sure you read The Dust of 100 Dogs someday. It’s very weird, and very different from her other books, but it’s still awesome. Plus, it has pirates.

    February 8, 2013 at 7:53 am

    • I’ve been looking for Dust in bookstores and haven’t been able to find it. Maybe I’ll check the strand today… or order from Books of wonder. but yes, pirates. I’m a sucker for a pirate story. Who isn’t? How did the Warhammer day and lego day go?

      February 8, 2013 at 8:50 am

      • Lego was awesome, and running around Hobbiton is just so much freakin fun. Warhammer has not gone down yet. We’re still trying to schedule it.

        February 8, 2013 at 8:52 am

      • Max went from playmobile (also cool and challenging to put together for Dad) to Legos from about 4-8 and a little into 9 years old. We had a not of building time and battles clocked there. Ahhhh.

        February 8, 2013 at 10:56 am

      • Well to clarify, Lego LOTR is an Xbox game I play with my nephew, but of course the real bricks are awesome too. He’s actually a little young for them yet. And I remember playmobil well. Not as cool as Lego, but I had plenty of them when I was a kid.

        February 8, 2013 at 11:01 am

      • Hah! Xbox we don’t have (sounds like yoda). But we have wii lego star wars and harry potter. Max ran them into the ground. Or… played them into, well, you know what I mean.

        February 8, 2013 at 11:48 am

      • I’m sure they have the LOTR one for Wii. We just got it yesterday (for Xbox) and it’s quite fun.

        February 8, 2013 at 12:02 pm

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