Here we are, just living in the first draft of Creation, which was made by some great artist, who is now getting ready to tear it apart. In this first draft of the world, a woman named Mira leaves home to study. There, she meets Annie, whose tremendous power opens Mira's chest like a portal—to what, she doesn't know. When Mira is older, her beloved father dies, and his spirit passes into her. Together, they become a leaf on a tree. But photosynthesis gets boring, and being alive is a problem that cannot be solved, even by a leaf. Eventually, Mira must remember the human world she's left behind, including Annie, and choose whether or not to return.
Part bonkers cosmology and part contemporary parable ... A creation myth viewed through the keyhole-size aperture of a single life ... Different modalities of love, and all the inexact, invigorating and frustrating ways in which they combine, drive the pathos of the book as well as its most phenomenal moments of exultation, moments where meaning crackles and flares ... The book’s plot is loose but sturdy: Like a fishing net, it stretches to hold more than initially seemed possible ... It is unsatisfying to summarize all these things: They happen with less color and less vitality in the retelling than they do on the page, where they are buoyed by a dazzling assortment of questions, curiosities and wild propositions that betray the author’s agile and untamed mind ... Pure Colour reaches farther and grabs at more diffuse, abstract material, rendering its world in a comparatively lower resolution ... But in doing so it brings into view a certain organic and ecstatic wholeness: bright splashes of feeling and folly, of grief and loss ... This book embraces the blissful and melancholy inevitability of being the type of person you are, and of allowing life to shape you in ways you can’t control or predict ... The category of the 'big book' in literature can often seem monolithic: a fetish object telegraphing excellence, a genre represented often literally by door-stopper page counts, and by names so famous they hardly need to be mentioned again here. But there are certain books that possess a different strain of vastness, elliptical and elusive, the way the coiled interior of a conch seems to contain the roar of the sea. In these works, you sense the subtle expansiveness of an individual life ... Though Pure Colour is a slim volume, approximately the thickness of a nice slice of sourdough bread, it holds within it a taste of something that defies classification.
There are aspects of “Pure Colour” that seem merely whimsical or dippy, but the long passages that flow from the death scene, and the fables invented to encompass and poeticize it, are by far the best writing Ms. Heti has ever done and alone make this book well worth reading. These chapters are forthright, attentive, unembarrassed, radiant with wonder, serious yet feather-light—and, to me, courageous in their willingness to plunge so wholeheartedly into the unknowable ... the fantastical quality of Pure Colour has given her the unfettered freedom to create, in the knowledge that every creation can only be provisional, a flawed first draft. Uncertainty is the paradoxical binding agent of Ms. Heti’s myth-making and this lovely book.
In Pure Colour, [Heti] follows her fascination with the sacred into domains so surreal that we have to abandon any notion that she’s merely some sort of postmodern diarist. We have to pay Heti the courtesy of taking her question literally. She really wants to know: How should a person be? ... Pure Colour is unabashedly metaphysical and completely outlandish. At the same time, this is a book of mourning, specifically for a father. Heti’s tone is more somber and searching than it has ever been, as she turns over and over fundamental questions of life and death, creation and extinction, with her trademark penchant for paradox. Yet neither grief nor theology can suppress Heti’s oddball wit and affection for wildly inappropriate sexual metaphors, for which a reader should be grateful ... Mira is an always interesting but haunting character ... Part of Heti’s charm is her knack for coming from as far out of left field as possible, and here she has amped up her unpredictability ... This is a gloriously implausible book. Maybe Pure Colour is best labeled a cosmological farce; if so, that’s a discomfiting genre. The God of this novel is everywhere and in everything, but he is less concerned with human happiness than one might have hoped.