4 3 2 1

I finished the book, 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster, a few weeks ago but still keep thinking about it.   I have read more than a handful of Auster’s books over the years and have always enjoyed his work as his writing provokes thought.  He is an insanely prolific writer from fiction to poetry to screenplays to memoirs and more.

This book got mixed reviews and keep in mind it is almost 900 pages but I opened the first page and continued turning.  It is an impressive body of work centered around a family, particularly a young boy who grows into a man through the book with the historical context of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s as the backdrop.  It is also the classic American story of that era with immigrant Grandparents and how the next generation of children grew up.  All of these things including Auster’s in-depth information around writers of books, poetry, and music as it relates to the characters.

The premise makes for an interesting coming of age story but it is the multiple layers of this story that makes it even more fascinating.  The constant is the main boy/man character Archie including his love of writing and women and his desire for Amy who is also always present.  Yet each chapter has four different stories of the same characters at the exact same time.

It takes awhile to figure it out but it slowly unravels that each chapter has four components that are just a different avenue that Archie’s life took based on events.  One life a tragedy happens, another one his parent’s marriage does not last, another one he has a sexual experience that changes things.   Each life is a bit different as each event in his life moves him forward in a different direction.

All of us have had times in our life that made us who we are.  It could have been a parents divorce, a death of someone at a young age, moving from one place to another at an impressionable age, someone getting sick, etc.  As we get older it is easier to acknowledge those things and understand the impact.

Auster has written a really powerful book about how life is a journey that is affected by nurture although, at the end of the day, nature is at our core.