An urban fantasy in which a struggling comedian finds his decision to get tattooed by a brilliant tattoo artist in North Carolina setting off a series of extraordinary events that changes his life forever in ways he never could have imagined, including the opportunity to choose from three different lives.
While Mr. Breakfast is pure pleasure to read, it does call to mind the themes and sleights-of-hand associated with films such as Inception, Total Recall, Groundhog Day and Back to the Future ... Mr. Breakfast is the first Carroll novel in several years, but it seems to me as masterly as his earlier books. It will surprise you, make you laugh and scare you — and then, just when you think it’s over, add several extra twists before bringing this Rubik’s Cube of a story to just the right, emotionally muted conclusion.
Jonathan Carroll’s Mr. Breakfast is, for much of the journey, entertaining and thought-provoking ... Early on, there’s too much clunky exposition and a sense that Carroll is merely sketching in the characters ... There are other awkward or overexplained stretches later too, but Carroll eventually settles in and does a good job of raising the stakes for Graham in each new scenario, building suspense as Graham feels the weight of his actions ... Unfortunately, Carroll falters again at the end ... In another universe, perhaps, there’s a version of Carroll’s novel where the final 40 pages are as entertaining and provocative as the best parts of the story that preceded it. Whether it’s worth jumping to that timeline just for a more satisfying ending is up to you.
Carroll is compared with Haruki Murakami almost as often as he’s called a writer’s writer, but the comparison makes intuitive sense. Like Murakami, Carroll is a magical realist, rather than a systematizer or a worldbuilder: The rules of magic and the logic of the supernatural matter less than the mysteries of the heart ... I read Mr. Breakfast in three enthralled sittings, but it’s not flawless. Carroll is in love with our world and its wonders, but that general enthusiasm and genial wisdom sometimes shade into schmaltz or twee ... These complaints, however, hardly detract from the book. The novel thrilled me; it made me reflect on art, love, choices, and regrets; it left me with tears in the corners of my eyes and a smile on my face. What more can a reader ask for?