Wow. ALL THAT IS SOLID MELTS INTO AIR by Darragh McKeon was an incredible read: lush, lyrical prose on a sentence-by-sentence level, with breathtaking imagery and description. The stories of the four main characters were introduced separately but woven together like a fine tapestry.
I can’t say enough about this début novel. In fact, I don’t know why it didn’t garner higher acclaim and far more reviews than it did. For me, it was THAT good and shed such a necessary light on a topic that is still covered up today, despite its lasting repercussions: the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
I was in the eighth grade when the event occurred in 1986, so – naturally, as a 13-year-old interested mostly in boys, it wasn’t on my radar. Of course, I’d heard about it, but even years later, the name would pop up — yet with no real conversation of the horrors resulting from the event (mostly because its realities had been purposely hidden/disguised from public consciousness). This fictional novel exposes those realities and had me running to the Internet to look up every possible documentary and You Tube video about its subject. That, readers, is testament to an author who has done his job. After my own research, I am still in shock about the things I didn’t know…
This book also delves into the oppression of living under Communist rule and takes place three years before the Berlin Wall comes down; it sheds light on the political unrest (and the impact of politics on personal lives), but does so without being preachy or text-booky (I’m not hugely political). I’ve said it before, but I will repeat myself: historical fiction like this should be mandatory reading in high school classrooms. What a fabulous way to introduce significant historical events and political ideologies… in an engaging BOOK with fully developed characters, its own love story, a story of family relationships, a story of duty to/fear of country and dreams. It’s all about dreaming big, as well.
My only regret: that it took me so long to get to ALL THAT IS SOLID MELTS INTO AIR by Darragh McKeon, which has been on my shelf since it came out in 2014. I can’t wait to see what this author writes next!
(A version of this article was published by Melissa Crytzer Fry at GoodReads on January 28, 2016. It is reposted here with the authors permission.)
So glad you reviewed this! Historical fiction is my first love for the reasons you mention – introduce you to a topic and perspective you might not otherwise encounter or actively persue. Added to my must read this summer.
I really hope you like this one, Linda. I’m still thinking about it all these months later (and still trying to get my hands on every little PBS documentary about Chernobyl that I can).
Have you seen the Chernobyl photoreportage by Arkadiusz Podniesinski’s? He’s been going since 2008. He is also doing Fukushima. I’ve been planning to do a post on him for a while.