I am reading a fantastic book. This book is so good, in fact, that I am going to write about it and recommend it, although I am only about half way through.
The book is called The Finder, and it’s written by Will Ferguson.
Mr. Ferguson was a travel writer for more than 25 years. After I finish this book, I am going to search for other books he’s written. That’s how much I love his writing style. It is such a pleasure to read — an effortless, easy journey. As a writer, I know exactly how difficult such a thing is a write, to cut and polish the words and sentences until they shine like the multi-faceted diamonds they become. Here’s just one example from the book (this isn’t the best example, just one I read most recently):
“The edifice that had loomed so large at the heart of who she was, gone, gone, gone. Heavy machinery was taking great bloodless bites out of what remained, emptying wreckage-filled mouthfuls into waiting trucks, stirring up dust and ash and memories — asbestos, too. The orange-vested wrecking crew wore masks, looked like bandits from afar.” These thoughts about the building being demolished were from a woman who “avoided her coworkers — for all the good it did her — and, as a result, had garnered a well-deserved reputation for being standoffish, which was absolutely fine with her. The amount of fucks she didn’t give bordered on the infinite.”
The Finder doesn’t exist. Or rather, he is a non-descript, average-looking fellow who finds long-lost extraordinary thing, things like Muhammad Ali’s gold medal from the 1960 Olympic Games, Buddy Holly’s horn-rimmed glasses, the last reel of Alfred Hitchcock’s last film and the like. Or, maybe, just maybe the Finder killed himself, on one of the farthest of the far eastern islands, Hateruma, Japan, beyond, but still technically part of Okinawa. It is an island of restless ghosts who take a very long time to cross over, and deadly, vicious snakes, a place that starts the book, a place that is both hauntingly beautiful and starkly isolated. Here’s the description of the snakes:
“This small island was rife with habu, a particularly lethal strain of pit viper that seemed to exist as much in the imagination as in the underbrush. They were ghost-like, these habu, rarely seen, but very real. Irritable and aggressive, they lay in wait, two meters long at times and loosely coiled, ready to lash out. The Japanese had a saying: These four things are the most terrifying: earthquake, thunder, fire, and father. On Hateruma, they might add a fifth: habu. The habu of Hateruma moved through the shadows with a sibilant ease, in and out of abandoned lots and grassy fields, through crumbling tombs and unkempt yards. Night dwellers that fed on rodents, habu were notoriously unimpressed by humans. Their venom worked quickly, on a cellular level, breaking down the body from within, turning their victim’s innards into a pink slurry. It was a decidedly painful way to die.”
We meet an FBI agent, Gaddy Rhodes, obsessed with finding the Finder, a burned-out travel writer Thomas Rafferty, and a photographer Tamsin Greene, who live their own secrets — scarred, lonely, imperfect people who are rendered as real as anyone you know. Then we are thrust into the heart of the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, one of such strong magnitude that there were nine (9!) aftershocks.
This book is such a pleasure to read, that I really don’t want to finish it. Once done, I could never read it for the first time, and I will be jealous of anyone who’d begin reading it.
It’s an adventure story, a travelogue, a mystery, all wrapped in characters made real.
One of the highest compliments I could give a book (or a movie, for that matter) is to admit with open jealousy in my heart that I wish I had written it. For movies, that would be Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. For books … there are too many to count. But this book is near the top of the list.