In her expansive and inventive new book, Hunt uses her father’s incomplete manuscript as a vessel to communicate with him 20 years after his death ... To attempt to categorize The Unwritten Book is to diminish the effect of reading it. Hunt studied geology, and her fascination with the bedrock of the natural world overlaps with her elemental love of storytelling ... by turns mesmerizing, philosophical and funny.
Here the yearning of a daughter eager to understand her father in his absence resonates. How well can one possibly know the dead—or the living, for that matter? Hunt circles this question with growing intensity as she draws lines between her mother’s overstuffed house, her father’s alcoholism and her own relationship to art. In an especially wide-ranging essay, she writes about the love of One Direction that she shares with her daughters, and pieces together literary criticism and personal history relating to Patti Smith, Borges, motherhood and a surgery to remove one of her ovaries.
It’s a characteristically wild effort that defies genre distinctions, flits from the profound to the mundane with fierce intelligence and searching restlessness, and at its best, delves deep into the recesses of the human heart with courageous abandon ... The Unwritten Book is Hunt’s idiosyncratic version of a grief memoir, an alternately crazed and cool musing on grief, literature, and her late father’s identity as both a man and an aspiring writer ... Hunt astutely parses her father’s words even as she refuses to reduce them to simple explanations, deftly teases out the relationships between his fiction and his life while allowing for mystery to remain, annotates and elaborates and expatiates with charm, wit, and an insistence on her father’s fundamental unknowability ... Hunt’s mind is capacious and supple ... Watching her link wildly disparate topics is part of the fun ... But...some readers will feel lost, confused by its jumble of styles, approaches, and stories ... The Unwritten Book ponders and enacts this art of losing with an intoxicating blend of humor and pathos.