Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac by Kris D’Agostino.
No Surprise. I loved it!
I recently came across a book reviewer listing surprise as a determining factor in her enjoyment of a book. (I’m acting casual, like I can’t remember that I encountered that idea less than 24 hours ago, in the comments section, here.) I agree with that reviewer that it’s the unexpected that makes a book engaging, memorable, and enjoyable. That might be why I enjoyed The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac so much; it was constantly suprising, on mulitple levels.
I know Kris. He’s in a band with my husband. He was at my wedding reception. He’s friendly and funny. He’s really smart. He knows a ton about books, movies, and music. He always has super cute, nice girlfriends, which says something else favorable about him. That being said, I understand that my entire knowledge of Kris D’Agostino is the the equivalent of like one tiny side of a polyhedral Dungeons & Dragons die and who knows if my impression is even accurate? To me, he’s one of Steve’s guys from Brooklyn who get to stay out late, go to shows, see every movie, and remember every record they’ve ever heard.
It was surprising and compelling to me how far removed Sleep Hollow Family Almanac is from that world. Sure, Cal, the narrator, is a smart, music-obsessed, film school dropout, but he’s solidly in a place where those interests are worthless cultural capital.His struggles to grow, to find himself, to identify as an adult, are all occurring in a domestic space, amongst his family, which he loves more than anything else. To me, that priority on family seems authentic and a move into adulthood seems impossible without a reconciliation within the context of your family. So why can’t I think of another coming-of-age book that goes there, or rather stays there? Thanks, Kris, for doing it! It was refreshing, unexpected, and really resonated with me.
Kris does a great job, too, of intertwining the ordinary and the extraordinary and juggling tragic and comic story arcs, so that they bump into each, interrupt one another, become indistinguishable, and diverge suddenly. All this happens effortlessly and naturally, making the effect on the reader even more powerful and poignant. The ominous line, “We have no idea”, casually slipped in on page 218 is more devasting for its offhandedness.