I have yet to read Max Porter’s debut novel, but if it is anything like this, his second, then it won’t be long before I get stuck into it.
The title of the book is the name of the young precocious boy who loves to spend his time wandering off into the woods, losing himself within his own world, at one, with the trees and creatures. There is something very special, almost magical about Lanny, and as always seems to be the case, he is, while not ostracised, at least avoided by most of the other kids.
This short novel is divided into three parts, with the first part switching perspectives, sometimes quite jarringly, between. Lanny, Pete, Lanny’s mother and father, and perhaps one of the most interesting characters I have read this year, Dead Papa Toothwort.
Toothwort is the ghost of the village floating, passing through, changing shape and form, feeding off the village’s inhabitant’s conversation and spirit. Toothwort goes where he pleases lapping up the lives of his village.
Pete is the recluse, semi-infamous artist. Considered by most at least eccentric, by some quite mad. He keeps to himself toiling away on his latest projects. Lanny and Pete, who are similar in their outcast status are brought together by Lanny’s mother when she asks Pete if he would mind giving Lanny art lessons. Pete, reluctant at first, changes his mind and a beautiful friendship blooms to life. Age is no barrier between these two, but again most of the village sees the relationship as taboo. At this point in the book you start to see a pattern forming, which is only strengthened with the second part of the book.
The second part of the book is written in a completely different style. Lanny has gone missing. Porter uses rapid short paragraphs and sentences, switching perspective multiple times to convey the tension and anxiety of not only the parents, but the entire village. This second part of the book works incredibly well. The reader is buffeted with all the different villager’s thoughts, concerns, worries. We witness how people are quick to judge and stereotype people who live outside what is considered the norm by the majority. Just because Pete lives on his own and works on “strange” pieces of art, the village as a mass, rise up to declare him guilty of having something to do with Lanny’s disappearance at the snap of a finger.
The third part of the book, well you will just have to read it. 😊
If you are not a fan a mystical realism, this book may not be for you because the narrative is dripping with it. If you are a fan, you will love Toothwort and this magical little novel.
A thoroughly enjoyable read, and I will definitely be reading his first novel. 4 Stars.
Max Porter’s first novel, Grief Is the Thing with Feathers won the Sunday Times/Peter, Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year, the International Dylan Thomas Prize, the Europese Literatuurprijs and the BAMB Readers’ Award and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Goldsmiths Prize. It has been sold in twenty-nine territories. Complicité and Wayward’s production of Grief Is the Thing with Feathers directed by Enda Walsh and starring Cillian Murphy opened in Dublin in March 2018. Max lives in Bath with his family.
There is a great interview with Portor at Parhelion. Here is a link - https://parhelionliterary.com/2019/06/10/interview-with-lanny-author-max-porter/