In the Land of the Living - Austin Ratner I received an ARC from the author for reviewing purposes. Since I loved his first novel, [b:The Jump Artist|5784001|The Jump Artist|Austin Ratner||5955936], I must admit my expectations were high. I was not disappointed...
Their father peddled certain lies the same way he pedaled his bicycle to and from his many jobs all over Cleveland Heights, with his monstrous canvas bag balanced on his back and his giant toolbox strapped to the bike with a three-pronged canvas belt. He pedaled his bike slowly and resolutely, so that he never got up any momentum, as if momentum would have been cheating, pressing and pressing on the pedals, advancing up the sidewalk righteously, slate by slate, lie by lie, without caring when he got there, without knowing he was lying.

When you read first lines like these, you know a number of things. First, you are not going to be reading this with the television on. Second, you are in for a literary treat in which words and structure become an adventure on their own. And thirdly. here is a writer that writes for the joy of writing perhaps much like a bicyclist peddles for the physical experience and not for the end of the journey.

But this beautiful novel is a bit of a journey. It is a look at a family whose tragic interactions and losses affect them through generations. It is about alienation of sons, of fathers, of brothers. This is not a novel for those who like the story linear and neatly wrapped up. Scenes come and go, often lost in an exquisite avalanche of prose. Timelines are sometimes indistinct and the author leaves the reader to decipher certain turning points. That last one is actually a major strength for this reader who hates it when everything is neatly explained. Yet the dilemma of the Auberon family hits home for me and, I suspect, anyone else who dealt with families conflict and loss. I also suspect a certain auto-biographical tone but that would be an educated guess from me due to the emotional depth of the author's writing.

But what causes this novel to stand out is the beauty of its prose. It rings with emotion and never condescends to the reader. It is quite poetic in essence and adds insight and detail to the troubled protagonists. Good literary reads are getting harder and harder to find. So if you love to read literature you will want to check out this novel of Austin Ratner's and his previous one.