Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fearless, by Rafael Yglesias

 I never know, when I buy a book by an author I have not heard of, whether it will be just okay or something more. Every now and then I get excited. That's the case here. I loved this book and I will be looking for more by this author.

Max, an architect, is in a plane crash that kills his partner Jeff. In the minutes before the crash he moved from his seat to be with a young boy who is traveling alone, who is facing death alone. After the crash he leads this boy, Byron, and carries a baby out of the plane, earning him exaggerated kudos as a hero. Formerly fearful of flying, of eating strawberries, of many things, he suddenly finds he has no fear. He believes he has already faced death and is now immune. More than that, he is not afraid of saying the truth and in fact can't seem to help himself even when it hurts himself or others.

Meanwhile, Carla, also on that flight, loses her baby and finds herself fighting her guilt, lashing out and retreating into herself. Eventually she can't face even going outside. How do you make sense of such random deaths? She tries, through her religion.

Max alienates some and scares others as he becomes this other Max. He decides that the man he was before the crash was a fiction and the world had better get used to this new one. He fights with his wife and ignores Byron, who has taken to visiting him. He shuts down his business. He takes up with a less-than-stellar attorney. He does not lose his humanity or his compassion, however.

Ultimately it is this compassion that brings Max to meet the housebound Carla, where he proceeds to work what appear to be miracles. In most interesting ways the two lead each other out of the new world they have created.