Any author who gets me to read science fiction has absolutely earned their Pulitzer Prize. I don’t know if it’s Konstance’s mass of curls that “haloes” her head or the fact that her socks are full of holes, but I was entirely sunk by the end of the very first paragraph of Cloud Cuckoo Land. I put off reading this book because I worried it could never live up to All the Light We Cannot See. I shouldn’t have worried.
Not only does this novel tell a tragically beautiful and powerful story, it does so by weaving together such an intricately elaborate plot, I am now eager to reread it from the beginning just to discover all the connections I initially overlooked (and isn’t that the best part of reading?). And if that isn’t enough, Doerr finds a way to show the reader exactly WHY we love to read. Why, at times, we NEED to read. I never could have articulated this myself, but when Rex explains to Zeno in the Korean prisoner of war camp that when a story is “told well enough, for as long as the story lasts, you get to slip the trap,” I knew exactly what he meant. Whether it was Konstance in her cell cobbling pieces of the story together in her mind, a girl reading the story to her dying sister, or an old man directing a children’s play of the story in the second floor of a library while hiding the children from a man with a bomb downstairs, Cloud Cuckoo Land (the story within Doerr’s story) becomes a way to slip the trap for all of them. And for us. A good story lets us escape life, if only for a little while. Let’s us transport ourselves to another world after a terrible day at work, a fight with a spouse, wait time at the hospital, times when we generally just need to take a break from the myriad of unsolvable problems and horrific existential truths that life delights in throwing our way. When we just need…out.
And I haven’t even told you about Moonlight and Tree, who are the real reasons you should read the book, especially if you believe (as I did) that there was no way an author could make you cry over a pair of oxen.
Read the book. Slip the trap.
Use this link to find this book in your local indie bookstore (our book-buying choices matter 🙂