“They found it, tucked out of sight, exactly where she said it would be: a single shoe, on the roof.”
— Will Ferguson, The Shoe on the Roof
Giller prize-winning author of 419 returns with a different and unique story that tackles sanity and madness through the eyes of a man who breaks everything down with science. This work of fiction is the story of Thomas Rosanoff’s, one of the most arrogant and self-centered character I’ve endured in my life. His recent breakup pushes him to conduct an unorthodox research in search for answers that he believes will be a major breakthrough in the field of science. What exactly are we talking about? Thomas examines the idea of two objects not being able to hold the same space at the same time, but transposed on identities. To do so, he brings together three completely different men of different ages and with different backgrounds who all claim to be messiahs. By trying to conduct an experiment where they’d all come together and confront their delusions of grandeur, Thomas believes he’ll be able to find the cure to these false identities. The purpose behind this quest however has multiple angles, and one of them being able to get his girlfriend back, but this experiment does not end like he thought it would.
The main protagonist has a peculiar background and it often plays a big role in the story itself. While he’s a med student who thinks highly of himself, he’s also the son of a famous psychiatrist who’s legacy continually haunts Thomas as he tries to create his own. As a kid, Thomas spent his entire life known as the “Boy in the Box”, essentially a guinea pig to his father’s experiment, which brought him fame. With Thomas as the main character, you’re however forced to indulge his personality that can be very hard to swallow and enjoy. While he can sometimes pull off jokes with his sly humour, he still rubs off as a completely rude character who has a relatively close-minded perception of life. Everything he sees is drowned in this scientific explanation and completely obliterates any opinion that dares to defy reason. Only logic prevails and Thomas won’t let you go until he’s convinced you of this. Very often you’ll have a lot neuroscience explanations (from mirror neurons to cognitive shenanigans) that’ll pop up left and right as you read this story.
I have to give a round of applause to Will Ferguson for creating such a provocative character and for having done such an important research to be able to stay coherent without ever feeling like the science was just thrown into the mix for the sake of it. It is however hard to enjoy. Sometimes I just felt like playing the devil’s advocate and prove him wrong so he wouldn’t keep on moving forward without anything stopping him in his tracks. But with someone like that, love, art and religion are continuously challenged and offers reader an opportunity to think about the very essence that makes these things so unique and different. Along with Thomas also comes the three messiahs and Will Ferguson does a great job in creating this unique characters and in establishing an intriguing and jolted dynamic between all four of them. As the story progresses, things become quite complex and it’s nice to see that all the development wasn’t in vain.
The Shoe on the Roof also has a mystery element to it towards the end. If anything, it felt out of place, but then again, this book covers so many fields, it’s not surprising that it even had such a component integrated. This book isn’t exactly something I sought for in my every day reading habits, but it is one that can be totally worth checking out just for its ability to provoke. I won’t hesitate to say that I wasn’t a fan of the protagonist or the way he sees women; or even life in general. It had this tinge of a stereotypical med student who thinks high and mighty about himself and has everything going for him because of their background, but the author still does a great job in developing his character. Sometimes great characters can be created without readers ever being able to connect with them too. I did have an issue related to how Thomas conducts his research and how it sometimes blew my mind how unethical and unrealistic it seemed. In fact, just the way the story went head first into that direction seemed so wrong considering that a breakup is what caused it all and his desire to get back with his girlfriend that made him conduct this experiment in the first place; you’ll have to read the book to know how these experiments are even connected to his girlfriend. The Shoe on the Roof is still an interesting story that tackles some important subjects related to mental illness through a religion versus science clash.
THANK YOU TO SIMON & SCHUSTER CANADA FOR SENDING ME A COPY FOR REVIEW!
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MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★☆☆/