Adjacentland by Rabindranath Maharaj: A Navigation Guide

The most unreliable thing in our possession is our memory. And yet we invest so much trust in it.

This book is crazy. Really crazy.

A man wakes up in a room. He doesn’t remember anything about himself. He doesn’t know why he’s there. He runs into other characters who seem to be talking nothing but nonsense. (The characters and the way they speak remind me of the characters in Alice in Wonderland.) Even the books in the library have been taken apart, shuffled up, and glued back together. He’s desperately searching for any kind of clue that will tell him who he is, where he is, and what he’s doing there.

He keeps track of everything by writing in a daily journal, addressing his writing to the person he believes is responsible for his circumstances, hoping that this person will eventually show him/herself.

An excerpt from a letter left in his possession…

“I have disguised my writing and it is my hope that by the time you determine my identity you would have understood enough to forgive me. We are the only ones left. Trust no one. Least of all yourself.”

Before you read this book, you first have to decide whether or not it’s for you. If you don’t like to be confused while you’re reading, do not read this book. If you don’t like to be inside one person’s head and every thought they have for a whole book, do not read it. BUT if you like a challenge, a head-scratcher, something to boggle your mind then I highly recommend giving this book a try.

Travellers are less interested in adventure than in finding something familiar in an unexpected spot.

Now that you know you want to read it, here are some tips on how to read it. Why? When I first started to read it, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to continue. I felt confused and I felt like I had to remember every detail along the way or I would get even more confused. But soon I was exhausted trying to remember every detail and looking prematurely for clues that might help me figure out what was going on. So, don’t do that. Instead, just go with it. Pay attention, but don’t kill yourself trying to figure things out. Just keep reading.

There are 5 stages to this book. Don’t expect to find any clues at all in Stage 1. But once you get into Stage 2 you will start to pick up on small clues and patterns. By Stage 3, the pattern will be even more evident. The clues and pattern recognition will give you hope that you might eventually figure this thing out.

(From my notes… “started to notice little things in Stage 2 that relate to Stage 1 — yippee!”)

In Stage 4, don’t be surprised if you once again feel a little overwhelmed. There are more characters coming at you all at once, and you’ll be trying to determine which ones are important to pay attention to and which ones aren’t. Which ones are crazy, which ones might be visions, and which ones might be the real deal. (One character in this section is a “breatharian”… he gets his energy from “inhaling nutritional microbes and from the morning sun”.) I’m still not sure I have it entirely worked out. And I have lingering questions. But eventually you will get to to Stage 5 and be rewarded for your efforts.

“Someone was trying to impede my progress, which was confusing because I had no idea what I was looking for.”

One thing is for sure, Rabindranath Maharaj has one heck of an imagination. And I never had any idea of what was going to happen next. If nothing else, this book is worth reading just to admire it.

Another thing this book has going for it is that it’s good clean fun – very little profanity, sex, violence. Not too scary, and sometimes the main guy is even kind of funny. There’s definitely humour to be found in his situation. There’s also a lot of detail provided about the man’s surroundings… as crazy as his “journey” was, I could easily visualize everything described in his journal. Someone could have a field day making a movie out of this.

I especially enjoyed his time looking through books at the libraries he discovered.

“A thick cream curtain hangs behind one of the cabinets and when I first moved it aside, I saw a bookcase that had been built into the recessed wall. The books bore fascinating titles and they all seemed concerned with demonic possessions, lobotomy, bloodletting, and etherisation. There were also slim periodicals with obscure articles on trepanation and childbirth and others with diagrams of electric chairs and pulleys…

I have to wonder at the choice of reading material in this library.”

Do you like mind-boggling books? Have any good ones to recommend? 

Have you read any of Rabindranath Maharaj’s other books? I’ve only read his short story from Victory Meat . From what I’ve seen and read, this one seems to be quite different from his others, many of which seem to be about the immigrant experience.

Thank you to Wolsak and Wynn for sending me an ARC of this book! I did notice quite a few typos in my copy, but they’ll hopefully be gone by the time the book comes out. Release date – May 8, 2018

39 thoughts on “Adjacentland by Rabindranath Maharaj: A Navigation Guide

  1. Sarah says:

    Well you’ve got me hooked. This sounds like a reading challenge too good to pass up – it’s going on the list!

    • Naomi says:

      It’s not the same story at all, but it sometimes feels like you have no idea what’s going on. I’d say that if you didn’t make it through Bellevue Square, you probably won’t make it through this one either. But you could always try it?

  2. Lit Lens says:

    Yeah, I’m just gonna pick this one up now. I’ve been looking for a good unconventional book for a while, and this sounds perfect. Have you read The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov? Sounds like you might enjoy it if you like creepy, convpluted books! Sea of Hooks by Lindsay Hill is another one with a very different format.

  3. Kazen says:

    I love the whole Goldsmiths Prize “fiction at its most novel” thing so I think I’ll have to give this one a go. Knowing I don’t have to hold every last detail in my head from the get go is a big help. 🙂 Thanks for this review!

    • Naomi says:

      I always find it helpful to know that, too. I have a tendency to think I need to remember every little thing. I’m glad it has caught your interest!

  4. Rebecca Foster says:

    I have a love/hate relationship with books like this. Sometimes I like the sense of bewilderment and the slow waking up to what’s going on. Other times I get annoyed with the writer for not just telling a straightforward story. So I think I’d definitely have to find the right time to read this one! I appreciate you giving tips on the reading experience and who might like the book.

    • Naomi says:

      The funny thing is, the narrator does tell a straightforward story as he knows it. But because he has amnesia, he just doesn’t know much except what he is seeing right now. Straight-forward and confusing at the same time – not that that makes any sense. Now you’re probably even more confused. 🙂

  5. Grab the Lapels says:

    Much of my lit studies was made up of confusing books. Girl Imagined by Chance by Lance Olsen. Real to Reel by Lidia Yuknavitch. Everyday Psychokillers: A History for Girls by Lucy Corin. The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia.

  6. AYearOfBooksBlog says:

    Wow! This sounds very unique and definitely a book to push a reader out of their comfort zone. I have read The Amazing Absorbing Boy which is coming of age novel, telling the story of a boy who moves to Canada from Trinidad after the death of his mother. He learns about Canada as he travels on the subway and trains, meeting other immigrants and attending programs at the Toronto Reference Library – very different from your description above!!!

    • Naomi says:

      Very different! I was thinking about it, though, and you could argue that the man in Adjacentland is like an immigrant the way he has to re-invent himself every time he finds himself in a new place. I don’t know if that’s what the author had in mind or not – if so, it’s a very different way of telling the story!

  7. DoingDewey says:

    I’m not sure if I’d generally like a book where I felt confused or not. I think I would if there was a good explanation for everything by the end 🙂

  8. Karissa says:

    I have been struggling with this book and went to Goodreads to see what other people thought/if I should continue and your review popped up! I’m going to keep working at it…

    • Naomi says:

      I hope it gets better for you! It’s not for everyone, but I thought it might be easier if readers knew what they were in for without giving anything major away.
      I’ll be interested to know how you make out!

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