Unraveling ‘The Library at Mount Char’

At the center of everything is a story. The story of how God created the universe in seven days. The story of how the body of a mountain giant eventually became the earth, sea and clouds. The story of how a fearful god swallowed his children because they were destined to usurp him.

Scott Hawkins understands the importance of stories. His 388-page debut novel, “The Library at Mount Char,” is essentially a story about stories.


“The Library at Mount Char”
By Scott Hawkins
388 pp. Broadway Books. $16.00 US.

Its protagonist, Carolyn Sopaski, is a thirty-two-year-old librarian at Garrison Oaks. She’s one of twelve Pelapi, which roughly translate to “pupil” or “librarian.”

Carolyn and her siblings are all part of the Pelapi tribe, each devoting their entire lives to studying a single catalog from their Father’s library. Carolyn’s in charge of learning all the earth’s spoken languages and she becomes the mediator between the world Hawkins built and the world we think we know.

Hawkins’ story is predicated upon the idea of “regression completeness,” a phrase he made up that means “no matter how many mysteries you solve, there’s always a deeper mystery behind it.” This is how he structures “The Library at Mount Char” — which is not exactly a horror mystery or fantasy/sci-fi thriller, but keeps you glued to its pages nonetheless.

“The Library of Mount Char” reads as if you were suddenly transported within a game of Improv, an episode of “Doctor Who” or the script of “The Hangover” movie starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms (yes, the movie featuring Mike Tyson and a tiger).

Hawkins writes with an absurdist humor, filling the pages with a gigantic man willingly wearing a tutu, lions saving a man from a pack of dogs, a woman wearing a bathrobe and cowboy hat to the bank, and a former army sergeant who goes by Erwin. The novel’s almost dreamlike — as if you were submerging within Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” — playing like a movie in your mind.

You’re going to remember this story.


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