Max is a boy who is uncertain of his heritage. He has been told a story by his father that his mother was killed by burglars in Beirut, and that he and his father escaped to America to begin a new life together. In fact, his father wants them to be completely American.
In Lifted by the Great Nothing, by Karim Dimechkie, Max’s father, Rasheed, prefers to be called ‘Reed’ and works hard at two jobs to provide his son with everything a boy would want. There is a treehouse and a dog called Rocket. Max is a self-sufficient child, he cooks for his father and attends school. The pair are part of a close-knit neighbourhood multi cultural community, but there are tensions waiting to explode.
Max frequently questions his father about his birth, but his father is evasive and answers questions with what seems more like a story than fact. Reed tries to create a family atmosphere when he introduces Kelly, a young woman with a strong social conscience to become part of the family as a type of mother figure.
The lines are blurred somewhat as Max becomes a teenager trying to make sense of his confusing world. He explores his own sexual awakening with angst and mixed messages received from Kelly. These confuse him even further, and so he retreats into his own inner world and re imagines his own identity.
Some have called Lifted by the Great Nothing a coming of age story, and to some extent it is. The story spans from 1996 to 2010 and covers two continents in time and space. Kelly eventually leaves the family unit and the relationship between father and son fractures as Max realises that his ‘Americanised’ father is racist, placing tension between the two as Max develops an affection for an older African American woman called Nadine. The relationship if completely severed when Max is told that the story of his birth and subsequent coming to America is a complete lie.
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Armed with this knowledge, Max goes to Beirut and then Paris to find his mother. However his knowledge is scanty, and the reader is completely enveloped in the search for Max’s missing mother. The consequences are not what he expected, or indeed what he hoped for. There is collateral damage, but to tell more would ruin the story.
Lifted by the Great Nothing, by Karim Dimechkie, is a beautifully written book. The prose is elegant and graceful, and the dialogue also subtly reflects the inner life of the growing boy Max as he becomes a man. The characters are believable and engaging, the plot well paced and the final outcome satisfying without being cliched. This is a book I would highly recommend.
Lifted by the Great Nothing, by Karim Dimechkie, is available from Dymocks.
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