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Publishers Weekly: "A deep look at war, what it means to depend on another human being, and the nature of writing."

Date: Jan 31 2013

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Belgian author Nothomb receives a letter from 400 pound US Army private Melvin Mapple in December 2008. Normally she would ignore it, but something makes her respond. This ordinary beginning to Nothomb’s first English release since Tokyo Fiancée quickly becomes a deep look at war, what it means to depend on another human being, and the nature of writing. Amelie hates long letters and hides from fan requests, but agrees to help Melvin commit weight-gaining “body art” as a protest to the war America is fighting. Over two years the two grow to depend on each other’s letters to create a shared reality. All is well until Melvin disappears. Amelie worriedly searches and what she finds is a despairing man who has nothing “left to live for.” Through an epistolary exchange punctuated by brief commentary, Nothomb presents two lonely figures enveloped in a world of letters. By the time Amelie, filled with self-doubt, ends up on a flight to Baltimore to meet Melvin in person, the reader joins her in asking what it is she’s doing. Nothomb’s story expands with Melvin’s weight gain, taking on American military policy and even reality itself; but her greatest, most tragic creation is herself, and you will get on that plane with her.

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