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Review: Waiting for Columbus

waiting for columbusTitle: Waiting for Columbus
Thomas Trofimuk
Acquired: Library
Rating: ★★★★☆

One Sentence Summary: When a man washes up on a beach claiming to be the famed explorer Christopher Columbus, he’s transferred to an insane asylum where his nurse, Consuela, tries to help him find his way back to reality.

One Sentence Review: Trofimuk’s twisting narrative explores struggle and how we deal with tragedy through a mystery story I did not want to stop reading.

Long Summary: A man washes up on a beach and insists he is famed explorer Christopher Columbus. He’s taken to an insane asylum, but maintains his story. And he’s convincing — convincing enough that his nurse, Consuela, actually starts to believe him. After some time, Columbus starts to tell his life story to Consuela. The director of the asylum decides the best way to cure Columbus is to listen to his story and try to figure out what happened to him, and Consuela is the person to do that.

Soon, Consuela finds herself falling in love with the dashing, womanizing Columbus. It doesn’t take long, however, for his story to begin falling apart. Pieces of technology start coming in, facts that don’t match the historical record emerge, and even Columbus starts to realize he doesn’t make sense. At the same time, an Interpol agent named Emile is also looking for Columbus, but we really don’t know why. Quite a mystery!

Long Review: I decided to read this book after reading a story about making the audio book version of this piece. In that post, the audio book publishers said,

[My husband] got the first crack at Waiting For Columbus and after reading the first chapter, insisted that he himself was going to narrate! He pre-read the whole of the book and finished right before dinner one night. Fork midway between plate and mouth, he stopped, started crying and left the table. He walked the dog for an hour and a half. All because of Waiting For Columbus. Of all the books he has narrated, this had never happened before. When he came back from his “time-out” I suspiciously queried him as to whether the book was that maudlin. He shook his head and only said “You’ll see.”

With a build up like that, how could I not want to read this book? Luckily, it came from the library right before I was going home for a weekend where I was able to find the time to actually read it. And read it I did — the book is 336 pages long but I read it in only a few hours. I haven’t done that with a book in a long time, partly out of time constraints and partly because I haven’t found a book that I wanted to just consume all at once.

Plot is one way that this book sucks you in. Within the first few pages we meet the man claiming to be Columbus. He is absolutely convinced that’s who he is, and his conviction is so real I wanted to believe him. It doesn’t take long for his story to begin coming unraveled, however, and from that moment on it’s a race to the end of the book to figure out what could have possibly happened to cause someone to crack like that.

The supporting characters are equally as compelling. Conseula, Columbus’ nurse, was my favorite. She’s also struggling, struggling to find herself, figure out what she wants, deal with the pressure of her nearly perfect sister and her family’s expectations for her.  And falling in love with Columbus… that doesn’t really help either.

There are others that are equally well-drawn — the director of the hospital, the Interpol agent trying to track down Columbus, and the character’s in Columbus’ story. All of them are sort of stewing around, being damaged and trying to help themselves while they also try to help Columbus break out of whatever event sent him into the tailspin where he can’t even remember who he is.

The narrative structure of the book is a little challenging — it doesn’t go in a straight linear order, but it wouldn’t have worked if it did. The book jumps back and forth between the present and 1400 as Columbus tells his story to Consuela and those who will listen to him. Trofimuk does a fantastic job of building the story, slowing revealing details that show what is happening, and the mystery is a huge part of the fun.

The book is hard to put down. As Columbus’ story unravels, it was temping to try and put the pieces together for myself and guess what happened, but I honestly couldn’t do it. What ends up being the result was exactly right, but of course I’m not going to tell you what that was (even if I desperately want to talk about it with someone!). Suffice it to say, this book is one that’s definitely worth reading

Other Reviews: The Book Lady’s Blog; A Bookworm’s World;

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog November 18, 2009, 8:21 am

    Thanks for linking to my review here! I loooooved this book and know it’s one of my favorites for the year. So glad to see other people picking it up and enjoying it too.

    • Kim November 19, 2009, 7:01 pm

      Rebecca: I liked it a lot too! It’s a fiction book I want to read again, which doesn’t happen a lot for me.

  • J.S. Peyton November 18, 2009, 8:56 am

    This sounds like a great book. I think I first heard about it on Rebecca’s site and I’ve been coveting it ever since. I’m tying to hold out for the paperback, but we’ll see how successful I am. 🙂

    • Kim November 19, 2009, 7:02 pm

      J.S.: Once it’s in paperback, I’ll be buying it. It was very good, and I think would be even better on a re-read.

  • Vasilly November 18, 2009, 8:57 am

    I picked this up from the library after reading Rebecca’s review and the post about the book on Books on the Nightstand. I can’t wait to dig in, especially since the book was so engrossing it only took you hours to read it.

    • Kim November 19, 2009, 7:03 pm

      Vasilly: I read it in just a couple of days. I think I started it on a Thursday night, then finished it over the weekend.

  • Jeanne November 18, 2009, 9:03 am

    Definitely one for winter break!

  • Steph November 18, 2009, 10:12 am

    I haven’t read a book in one shot in ages either! I’m always excited to hear about books that really suck other readers in and won’t let go until the story is told; those are the best kind of books in my opinion. Also, I tend to enjoy non-linear narratives, even if they are dizzying at first, so this might be one for me to check out.

    • Kim November 19, 2009, 7:03 pm

      Steph: I agree on non-linear narratives. They take a bit to get used to and you feel like you’re lost for a bit, but it ends up making the book so interesting. This one has lots of twisting and re-tracking which is fun to read.

  • Heather November 18, 2009, 10:30 am

    thanks for the great review. I had heard about this book previously and now I have added it to my reading list.

  • Kathy November 18, 2009, 1:44 pm

    This book sounds wonderful. I know it bothers some people when a narrative jumps around like that, but it doesn’t bother me.

    • Kim November 19, 2009, 7:04 pm

      Kathy: Jumping narrative used to bother me, but I’ve grown to really love it. It doesn’t work for all books, but can be awesome when it’s used well.

  • Nicole November 18, 2009, 2:08 pm

    I firzt saw this on Rebecca’s blog and I have wanted to read it since the. Glad to see another voice chiming in on the “read it” side.

  • Amy November 18, 2009, 3:07 pm

    This is another wonderful review of this book. I am so interested in reading this book because the few reviews I’ve read about it are pretty amazing. I find it hard to turn my back on a book that someone else found difficult to put down! And, to be honest, the premise is pretty interesting!

    Thank you!

    • Kim November 19, 2009, 7:05 pm

      Amy: The premise is part of what convinced me to read it. The plot sounded like something I hadn’t read before, even though I’m sure it’s similar enough to other books. And the set up of a disturbed man trying to find himself really delivers.

  • A Bookshelf Monstrosity November 18, 2009, 3:57 pm

    Great review; I’m looking forward to reading this one. Better make sure it’s on my to-read list…

  • softdrink November 18, 2009, 9:11 pm

    I need to get my hands on this one. Rebecca’s review intrigued me, and yours has convinced me.

    • Kim November 19, 2009, 7:06 pm

      softdrink: Yay! One of my favorite things about book blogging is knowing a review made someone want to read a book — it makes it feel worthwhile 🙂

  • Christine November 20, 2009, 7:11 pm

    Great review! I added this one to my wish list 🙂

  • Mindy Withrow November 20, 2009, 7:23 pm

    I love non-linear narratives! Thanks for the enthusiastic review–I hadn’t heard of this book until just now, and it’s going on my TBR list!

    • Kim November 27, 2009, 4:10 pm

      Mindy: I’ve grown to really love nonlinear stories. They used to really frustrated me, but ever since I took a class where we looked at the relationship between narrators and authors and stories, the idea of nonlinear and building plotlines really fascinates me.

  • Lauren February 3, 2010, 12:06 pm

    OK, I’m sold. 🙂 This book looks fabulous and now I’m going to have to read it whether I win or not!