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Review--A Fraction of the Whole, by Steve Toltz

This is the story of Martin and Jasper Dean, a father and son who are as different as they are alike. The story begins with Martin, whose brother, Terry, was a famous criminal in Australia. Martin Dean has spent pretty much his whole life philosophizing about everything, and his mind tends to go to unexpected places. It’s essentially a novel about soul-searching.

The characters, especially the two main ones, are extraordinarily eclectic, much as John Irving’s are; however, the story of A Fraction of the Whole tends to wander all over the place, which is something I didn’t really like about the book.

Both men in their turns provide narration, and although there’s not much to say who’s speaking when, it’s pretty clear by the style of talking who is narrating the story. That’s one thing that I thought was done very well; Steve Toltz has a gift for narration and for creating distinct “voices” for his characters. Nothing ever occurs as expected. Te book is rife with satire and a unique sense of humor, which I really enjoyed. The story itself is somewhat bizarre and implausible, but that’s the beauty of A Fraction of the Whole.

The book is slow reading in that the author tends to bite off a little too much at once. I found myself reading the book slowly, in chunks, because the story tended to get a little too dense at times. But all the same, I enjoyed Toltz’s quirky, eccentric characters and the world in which they lived. Fans of John Irving will enjoy this lively debut novel.


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