You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers
Before leaving for Switzerland in 2013, I bought You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers at a half-price bookstore. For whatever reason, it was one of the books I brought with me overseas and, for whatever reason, I did not read it until I brought it back with me stateside this month. The fact that I had to travel the world a little bit before reading it, and before absorbing it, makes a heck of a lot of sense.
In this book, Eggers embeds the reader in the mind of a beaten 27-year-old, Will, who has recently come into a fair amount of money, timed unfortunately alongside the death of one of his two best friends, Jack. This odd formula of events sets Will off on a week-long adventure with his other best friend, Hand, around the world, with the aim of giving away as much of the money as possible.
With Will and Hand, the reader travels to Senegal, Morocco, Estonia and Latvia, locations selected for convenience, usually following a series of unfortunate obstacles and delays. And, while the details hardly seem to go to plan, they still accomplish great bouts of (somewhat selective) giving. They make excuses to ask for directions so that they can give to those who point them in the direction in which they're headed. They create a treasure hunt. They give to prostitutes. They give to hitchhikers. They give to children.
It is a very unique take on mourning, though I am not surprised that this would be a primary focus of Eggers' first novel, especially based on his own experience of loss as detailed in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. This approach to death and detachment is a unique read that opens a window to a unique author. And, as heavy and frustrating as it sometimes was to read through the failures and successes of these characters' journey, the reader enjoys ripe, small joys in life as articulated so beautifully by Eggers. Friendship. Loyalty. Resilience. Chaos begetting chaos begetting chaos, but also love.