Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

“Doerr has created a tapestry of times and places that reflect our vast interconnectedness – with other species, with each other, with those who lived before us and those who will be here after we’re gone.” – from the Scribner press release

Anthony Doerr, author of such extraordinary works as “Memory Wall” and “All the Light We Cannot See” (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015), returns to the scene with what is possibly his farthest reaching, most complex work yet. “Cloud Cuckoo Land” takes on a phenomenal scope, spanning time and space with astonishing ambition. The stories of Anna and Omeir in mid 15th century Turkey, Seymour and Zeno in present day Idaho, and Konstance decades from now on an interstellar ship bound for an exoplanet are all bound by a little-known and enigmatic ancient text. A deeper synopsis risks being both confounding and off-putting; this is a novel requiring the trust of an intrepid reader.

All of the key characters are outsiders in their worlds, individuals fighting for their place and somehow always able to nurture an ember of hope in the face of hopelessness, bound across time by the story of another such dreamer. Each story line is developed with such care and detailed world-building, that they could probably stand on their own. The way they are gently interlaced with such quietude, inch by inch, makes the overall work a spectacular feat.

“Why can’t healing happen as quickly as wounding? You twist an ankle, break a bone – you can be hurt in a heartbeat. Hour by hour, week by week, year by year, the cells in your body labor to remake themselves the way they were the instant before your injury. But even then you’re never the same: not quite.”

The same could be said of Doerr’s writing – its imprint remains long after the reading is done, Doerr’s words and his worlds a lasting part of the reader.

“‘Repository,’ he finally says, ‘ you know this word? A resting place. A text – a book – is a resting place for the memories of people who have lived before. A way for the memory to stay fixed after the soul has traveled on.’

His eyes open very widely then, as though he peers into a great darkness.

‘But books, like people, die too. They die in fires or floods or in the mouths of worms or at the whims of tyrants. If they are not safeguarded, they go out of the world. And when a book goes out of the world, the memory dies a second death.'”

The connective tissue of “Cloud Cuckoo Land” is an ancient text that narrowly withstands centuries. May Doerr’s creations live so long.

Thank you to Scribner for providing a complimentary Advanced Readers Copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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