Book Review: The Book of Form and Emptiness

Benny didn’t start hearing the voices until after his father died. At first, he thought he was hearing his father’s ghost, but soon he starts hearing voices from everything - shoes, the glass in the windows, the scissors on his desk at school. His anxious mother, Annabelle, takes him to a psychiatrist, but Annabelle has problems of her own, on the verge of losing her newspaper job to irrelevance and her apartment to an out-of-control hoarding tendency that began with her husband’s death. But relief might come to them from an unlikely source: books. For Annabelle, a book on tidying up written by a Zen Buddhist nun, and for Benny, the voice of a book telling him his own story.

The Book of Form and Emptiness, opens a new window is the new novel from award-winning author Ruth Ozeki, herself a Zen priest (“form and emptiness” is a reference to a Buddhist teaching, opens a new window about the unlimited potential that exists in emptiness) and a master of postmodern fiction. Benny’s story works equally well as an exploration of mental illness resulting from grief or as magic realism where the voices he hears just might be real, and Annabelle’s struggles are heartfelt and compelling. The many unusual plot threads and quirky characters combine with Ozeki’s inventive writing style to tell a powerful story of love, loss and how to survive it all. - Michelle (Sunset)

The Book of Form and Emptiness