There are some really wonderful books coming out this month, the kind that are so profoundly moving they change your perception of the world and what is possible in it, the kind that bury themselves inside your bones. Please read them. Get lost in their language. Give yourself that gift.
Census by Jesse Ball (available March 6)
There's nothing like a road trip novel which, admittedly, can go very badly in the wrong hands. But when done right, it serves as a profound evocation of the passage of our lives, of the way we move across once-unfathomable distances more easily than we'd thought possible, of the way in which the destination is never the goal, and sometimes isn't even a goal. Jesse Ball has written a beautiful road trip novel, yes, but it is also so much more. It is, as Ball explains in the introduction to this book, a tribute of sorts to his brother, Abram, who died many years ago and had Down Syndrome. Abram is not precisely present in this book, rather, as Ball explains, he lives in the book's blank spaces. But what is in the book is a love story between a dying father and the adult son for whom he cares, much as Ball once thought he would care for his brother one day. The novel's father and son have set off together on a strange road trip, in which they're visiting towns in ascending alphabetical order, working for an enigmatic government agency, taking a census. There's a rhyme to it all, but what is the reason? This is a question not only about the mission upon which the father and son find themselves but also about, well, everything. What there's no question about is Ball's alternately fierce and tender portrayal of parental love, of how we grieve for the things we haven't yet lost, and of how we are responsible for understanding our roles in perpetuating the destruction happening all around us. This is a book that will give you an expanded sense of what it means to have compassion, and what it means to love.