The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty By: Vendela Vida
5 out of 5 Stars
I loved this book. It’s a tiny thing, only about 200 pages or so, and as such can be consumed in a day (and once you start reading this, you’ll likely not stop. I discovered this book through Powell’s Books Indiespensible subscription service (which, if you haven’t heard of it, you may need to look into it. Now. I’ll wait), which has provided me with a multitude of wonderful books I probably never would have found otherwise (expect to see several of these books coming up in future reviews).
Overly parenthetical ramblings aside, I truly enjoyed this book. It’s an unconventional mystery, set in modern day Morocco, Casablanca to be exact. The book is written in the second person, a bold–and polarizing–choice; everyone seems to either love it or hate it. Personally, I think the use of second person works well for this book. We are meant to relate more closely with the nameless heroine than a third person story may allow, but she is allowed some mystery to her thoughts, which cannot be found in a first person story.
The heroine (so to speak) begins the book enroute to Casablanca from Florida, but we don’t know why she is traveling. Shortly after arriving in the ancient city, she is robbed; her passport, credit cards, and computer all disappear into the labyrinthine streets, and with them goes all connection to her past life. In time the authorities find “her” bag, but in reality it belongs to another woman.
So begins the adventure and the mystery. Deciding that as she is now no one, she can be anyone, Our nameless heroine begins to build a new life around the belongings of the other woman whose bag she now holds. Naturally (as tends to happen), things go sideways, and the heroine finds herself falling deeper and deeper into her assumed identity.
As the book progresses, we find, in bits and snippets, the reason for the heroine’s flight (as in flee) to Morocco, and why she is so quick to turn herself into someone else. The mystery here isn’t so much in what happens to her once she sets foot in Casablanca, but in the events that drove her there in the first place.
Like I said, I read this book in a single sitting, literally unable to put it down. The writing is lyrical and elegant, the second person point of view surprisingly easy to get used to. Though we know next to nothing about the central character in this book, you find yourself cheering for her, and sympathizing with her, and desperately turning the pages to find another small piece of her past. It’s been quite a while since I’ve come across something so unusual and yet so engaging.