The Sarah Book is a horror novel for people who are more scared of marriage than zombies. Scott McClanahan loses his wife to a divorce that was her idea, then stares into the abyss and writes about it at length. Wait, no. It’s a novel, narrated by a guy named Scott McClanahan. I know this because at one point the narrator has a conversation with a slowly dying dog. There’s also a wedding gift holy Bible being set aflame on a whim and a fair amount of feces, plus suicides both imagined and botched.
If you’ve heard the band Reigning Sound, you know that they’re not doing anything radically innovative. Yet, from five instrumental tracks from five bands, a fan would know which track was Reigning Sound’s. McClanahan’s prose is like that.
To choose a paragraph at semi-random: I told her that I loved going inside after midnight and watching all of the people of the world shop. They were the people who the rest of the world didn’t want and they were the ones that didn’t belong anymore. They were the people with amputated arms and they were the people in wheelchairs and they were the people with face tattoos and scars. I was a scar too. I was a giant human scar. And then I felt serious and I said, “Walmart is more than a store. Walmart is a state of mind.”
As the composer of this novel, McClanahan fucks up only once (never mind how, you may not notice it), and I’ve never been so grateful to be pulled out of a story: Oh, right, he’s not The Seer, he’s just a schmuck with an Underwood.
The Sarah Book is an abyss book, but McClanahan isn’t nihilistic. He spent many hours staring into this abyss so we only have to spend a few hours. Our old hope is burnt off like sugar cane and new hope is (if all goes well) harvested. –Jim Woster (Tyrant Books, nytyrant.com)