This is a constant problem for me, because I might have the teensiest book-buying addiction. I currently have well over 3,000 books in my home, many of which I bought because they were incredibly cheap, not to mention that I wanted to take them home with me because they had words in them. I have more books than I will probably ever be able to read. Does that stop me from buying more? Nope. My shelves have turned into something akin to archeological sites; I never know what I’ll dig up when I start looking for my next read.
The Library at Mount Char was my most recent rediscovery. I bought it two years ago because it had a pretty cover (with the word “library” in the title, no less) and was on sale, but I somehow never got around to reading it. When I plucked it from behind the stuffed Totoro it was hiding behind, I got incredibly excited. The synopsis sounded weird and fabulous, and I wanted to start reading it immediately. Alas, now my reading is a bit more structured, so I had to pencil it into my schedule.
The day arrived. I picked up the book and started reading. And I almost put it down. The first fifty pages of it were so dark, so bleak, that it was almost too much for me. There was child abuse and human sacrifice and poor victims resurrected to endure the torture over and over again until they grasped whatever lesson was being taught. Although the Library itself sounds amazing, it’s not a place I would ever in a million years want to visit. The hopelessness of the situation and the feral self-preservation that defined the students was just about enough to convince me to return the book to its hiding place behind Totoro.
“You can adjust to almost anything.”
But I’m glad I didn’t. I read the last two hundred pages in less than three hours. I can’t even tell you exactly what kept me so engaged, except that it was incredibly unpredictable. I’ve never read anything like it. Carolyn and Steve, the story’s main characters, continued to grow and surprise and sometimes horrify. Both characters had far more depth than I anticipated when they first appeared on the scene. Steve was the only genuinely good person in the book. He had a past, and he made mistakes, but he was good down to his toenails. But Carolyn, the true protagonist, was the real surprise for me. I understood her motivations, even when they made me super uncomfortable. Her intellectual rigor was so impressive. I loved this quote describing her:
“Carolyn’s eyes were like granite, against which soft things might smash and be broken.”
There was never a dull moment in this little book. There were epic lions battling packs of completely insane dogs. There were zombies in suburbia. There was the most terrifying barbecue pit on the face of the earth. There was a psychotic warmonger in a tutu and his girlfriend who liked to lick the tears from the decapitated heads of his victims. (They liked to finish off their sex-capades by killing each other and having their incredibly stoned physician resurrect them. Seriously, they were so disturbing.) We get to meet the Sun and a tiger god and the President of the United States. This was one of the most varied casts I’ve ever read.
All in all, The Library at Mount Char was one of the most unique books I’ve ever read, if also one of the darkest and most irreverent. I recommend this book to those who can handle that darkness and the depression it often brings with it. Maybe balance it out with a Disney movie or two. Moana worked for me. If you do decide to pick this book up, I can promise you that you won’t be bored!