2015 Whiting Award winner. A man purchases a house, the house of Fra Keeler, moves in, and begins investigating the circumstances of the latter's death. Yet the investigation quickly turns inward, and the reality it seeks to unravel seems only to grow more strange, as the narrator pursues not leads but lines of thought, most often to hideous conclusions.
Oloomi’s novel lodges us in the head of a paranoid lunatic and thus uncorks for us a different set of concerns ... The course of Fra Keeler’s progression, if it is progression at all, is not that of descent into paranoia but a struggle to ascend up the canyon wall of a consciousness known immediately as crazy. Thus, Oloomi’s novel takes the long-established conflict between reality and perception found in contemporary fiction much deeper ... By taking paranoia as a founding conceptual assumption, Oloomi’s novel pushes us forward into the problems associated with 'knowing.' The novel’s symbolic fission of literature’s fundamental building blocks helps us see textuality as both evil and necessary. Evil because it is the cause of nerve-wracking duplicity and doubt, and necessary because, without it, knowledge is merely an oblivion.
The mystery of Fra Keeler's death drives the narrator forward, while the narrator's thoughts, endlessly circling, spooling out and back in, drive the reader ... Though difficult to describe, the book is a pleasure to read. Rather than constructing an argument, the narrator's thoughts accumulate and accrue, pooling around the yurt, the skylight, Fra Keeler, and other people and objects. Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi makes use of the narrator's logical wanderings to engage in word- and thought-play that is both delightful and, as the narrative continues, vaguely threatening ... Even as events cohere, the narrative dances amid the surreal, frustrating attempts to impose sense on the narrator's senselessness.
Van der Vliet Oloomi’s debut novel turns out to be a surrealist triumph despite a jerky entry into the narrator’s world ... A clearly unreliable narrator, the character nonetheless draws the reader deeper into his mental labyrinth, as snippets of a possible truth shine through as from a blinding streak of lightning on a dark night ... This short but substantial novel both celebrates the process of thinking and offers cautions about the perils of our inner monologues. A rare gem of a book that begs to be read again.