Finished a good book over the weekend – Christopher Torockio’s Floating Holidays. This book came out in 2007 from Black Lawrence Press, a small publisher with an interesting and diverse catalogue.
Before I begin praising this book, which is ultimately what I would like to do, I have to mention one thing that I found nearly unforgiveable. The handful of typos were annoying but I could ignore them, a minor printing issue I could forgive because I’m sure Black Lawrence were just as dismayed when they got the books back from the printer, but in one scene a doctor gives a line of such bad information I nearly shut the book and called Torockio myself to complain. He has a doctor tell a pregnant woman that some internal bleeding early on in her pregnancy could cause complications….like Down Syndrome. Um, that’s a genetic disorder and nothing but a mutation on a certain chromosome will cause it. Not only did it surprise me beyond belief that someone in this day and age could actually think this, but how come his editor didn’t fix this?
Okay, so this huge flaw occurred inside one teensy tiny little scene and doesn’t affect the book overall, but I had to point it out. Now, let’s move on.
The book blends a number of voices and several story lines, all of which have their genesis in a certain corporate event. On first glance, the book appears to focus on the world of office cubicles and big corporate life, but the stories stretch much further than that and are ultimately more concerned with the domestic narratives of the novel’s various characters.
It is difficult to pull off a book with so many different voices but Torockio does it well, pegging each character quickly with some feature or habit that really defines them but not letting those ‘tags’ (for lack of a better word) overpower each character’s development. In terms of story, the book concerns itself with life’s setbacks, both marital and professional, how the two are often linked, and how his characters navigate such difficult waters. My description isn’t doing the novel much justice, the book has real momentum. And despite the fact that some of the characters aren’t necessarily likeable, Torockio portrays them all with real empathy.
Floating Holidays did what my favorite kind of contemporary fiction does – gets me to see people, their idiosyncrasies, their weaknesses, their frail strengths and tentative optimism. Humans can be so nutty sometimes – for no obvious reason people might suddenly be horribly mean to one another, while across the street a group of strangers band together to stick it to The Man. Why do we do these things? Torockio seems just as curious.