Jonathan Carroll: surreal, surprising, satisfying

“I forgive nothing. If you stole my orange crayon in the fifth grade, you’re still on my hit list, buddy.” 
― Jonathan CarrollBones of the Moon

It’s like a dream – or maybe a nightmare. Maybe magic exists. Maybe angels exist. Maybe you’re dead. Maybe you’ve been brought back to life. Maybe a three-legged dog appeared, and everything changed.

Jonathan Carroll writes in a style all his own. His creations are unique and unexpected.

I began reading his books in junior high and instantly became addicted. The first one I cracked open one fateful day was “Sleeping in Flame,” and I quickly went on to “The Wooden Sea,” “Bones of the Moon,” “Glass Soup” and “Kissing The Beehive,” among others.

In “Sleeping in Flame,” Walker Easterling falls in love with Maris York, a beautiful woman who builds whole cities from her imagination out of Legos. Easterling’s life morphs from ordinary to exceptional with the addition of York. He discovers he has powers he never realized when he begins to see things happen before they occur. He spies a beautiful sea monster that rises out of the depths of the ocean because of him.

The world around him as he knows it changes. When he starts to work with a shaman to find the purpose of the occurrences, he only scratches the surface before he learns it’s all up to him.

To keep himself and York safe, he has to find out his true history – his past lives, his powers, his real parents. As the plot is unveiled, it is all stranger and more magical than one could expect; it’s almost like a fairy tale.

In “The Wooden Sea,” Police Chief Frannie McCabe takes in a three-legged dog, which then promptly drops dead. He buries it. It shows up in his trunk. Suddenly, his average, small-town, comfortable life is filled with omens, time traveling, questions, death and a grand universal puzzle – a puzzle in which his piece must be figured out before time is up.

Carroll’s books are surreal, disturbing and joyful by turn. I never knew how his books would end, happily or in complete and devastating disaster. In Carroll’s books, it is hard to fathom what will happen or why, and that’s why I treasure them. I was never disappointed, but I was always surprised.

Over the years, his books became harder to find – some of them stopped being printed – and today, bookstores don’t often carry many, if any at all. So whenever I stumble into a used bookstore and it has a few copies, I end up buying them to give to a friend. A few weeks ago, I saw three pristine paperbacks in a used bookstore and snapped them up. I immediately began rereading my old favorites.

His next book, “Bathing the Lion,” will be coming out in the U.S. in summer 2014, according to his blog,, and I’m quite excited to see what he writes next.

In the meantime, I suggest adventurous readers looking for something a little strange and a little different go book hunting for one of his many novels.

Maybe you’ll love it, and maybe you won’t, but I bet you’ve never read anything quite like it.

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