Whenever I hear of a book that sounds interesting, I put it in my library queue. When it arrives, anytime between one week to five months later, I usually forget why I asked for it. Such was the case when I found In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut waiting for me on the hold shelf. Who or what told me to read this wonderful book? I want to buy them a cake!
As I scanned through the first couple pages, I was initially turned off by Galgut’s poetic paragraphs and disregard for the established rules of grammar. Almost as soon as I had decided the book was too weird to read, I found myself entranced. In his book, Galgut describes three journeys–to Africa, Greece, and India. The rhythm of his prose makes his adventures something lyrical and deeply moving. He generally writes in a third-person past tense, but sometimes, within even the same paragraph, he shifts from “he” to “I” as though the emotion is so strong he has been sucked back into the memory as if it were a present-tense reality. I mean, that’s some amazing writing.
Something in him has changed, he can’t seem to connect properly with the world. He feels this not as a failure of the world but as a massive failing in himself, he would like to change it but doesn’t know how. In his clearest moments he thinks that he has lost the ability to love, people or places or things, most of all the person and place and thing that he is. Without love nothing has value, nothing can be made to matter very much.
Although the book revolves around traveling, the destination is not really the point. Galgut is more concerned with why he travels than where he goes, with how traveling shapes him and affects his relationship with others, either by drawing people together or as a repellant force. In a Strange Room is not a book for the head, but for the heart. If you want a uniquely emotional experience, this is the book for you.