Author: Alejandro Zambra, Megan McDowell
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: I’m not entirely certain what to make of this clever and darkly humorous book, but I definitely enjoyed how unique it was.
If you’re like me and actually found standardized tests kind of fun or if you just share my enjoyment of unique book formats, you should definitely check out Multiple Choice. I’ve never read anything like this book, with its test-like format, before. The reading experience reminded me a tiny bit of Brown Girl Dreaming, because in both cases the authors’ packed a lot of meaning into few words. I had to intentionally slow myself down and make myself take the time to absorb the writing. I wasn’t sure this was going to be something I enjoyed at first, but it grew on me.
The first section asked the reader to pick the one word that had nothing to do with a single preceeding word or with the other words that were possible answers. I enjoyed that this made me think about the relationships between words. It also made me consider the multiple meanings of some words, although some problems were clearly nonsensical no matter how you interpreted them. I enjoyed those too! The author used them to make some incisive and often surprisingly dark, cynical commentary. Topics included the history of Chile and life there currently; family relationships; authorship; and education.
Another section I enjoyed for its focus on language asked the reader to fill in the blanks with one of five words or sets of words. This made me consider the nuanced differences between different choices. The final sections that asked the reader to answer questions about larger segments of text made me think more about the overall point of each story and the story structure. I loved the way the author used question answers to express opinions about his own text. I also loved the sometimes creative choices – all choices the same for example – that he used to make particular points. I did feel far more engaged in the text than I usually do when reading. I think each reader would bring something different to the text that would shape their experience and I also think that its a text that encourages critical reading.
I’ve noticed lately that almost all of my favorite books that I can’t bear to part with are fiction, despite my love of nonfiction. Given that, it’s perhaps not surprising that I found this book awesome, but didn’t fall in love with it. Although the writing was fantastic, there just wasn’t enough narrative to make me emotionally invested. That said, I thought it was unique reading experience and a fast read that everyone who is at all interested should try at least once.