Genre: Literary Fiction
Content Warnings: suicidal ideation, fits of rage, mentions of death, grief
Perfect for when you’re in the mood for: a cathartic story; raw, funny and sad all at the same time
Reality is fragile. All it takes is a gentle tap to break its shell.
Isaac and the Egg is Bobby Palmer’s debut novel about life after loss, with an imaginative spin on things that help us move forward. Our main character, Isaac, contemplates jumping off a bridge in a state of grief-induced numbness following his wife’s unexpected death. After hearing a scream from the nearby forest, he finds an abandoned egg and decides to take it home. Minor spoiler: it’s not an actual egg, but we call him Egg. Shenanigans ensue when Egg starts to live life alongside Isaac, who begins to pick up the pieces of his life for the people he has left.
I’ve had a handful of favourite books this year that explored grief and loss, but Isaac and the Egg is truly indescribable. You’ll need several moments, maybe an hour or so, to let it sink in. At first glance, it’s a simple read. Isaac’s apathy following the death of his wife is reflected in even the third-person narration’s inability to track exactly how much time passes between early chapters. The language, repetition and short sentences always come back to the same cycle of thoughts: her, her, her. His emotions are raw, bleeding, pinned on the pages with ink and crescendoing beyond the margins. At the same time, the dry humour gives us room to breathe and have a chuckle when things begin to feel a little helpless.
If he’s going mad… if madness gives him something to focus on, Isaac will embrace madness with open arms.
I can say with full confidence that Palmer has created an unforgettable story because of Egg. There’s a peculiar sense of kinship built from mirroring behaviours, cohabitation and good old guttural screaming. Personally, I loved the absurd image of a fluffy abominable snowman with a lemon for a face and feather boas for arms imposing itself like a toddler into this near-thirty-year-old man’s life. Apparently, this feeling of amusement is not universal, as when I described it to someone else, the egg’s appearance apparently horrified them (it’s probably the lemon face). Egg feels like an imaginary friend providing comedic relief, and akin to that one person who helps by just being there. Isaac is constantly aware of how bizarre Egg’s existence is, how he felt compelled to take it home and its similarities to fictional characters, but a man consumed by grief doesn’t have the emotional capacity to dwell on the believability of things. As he gets better, their communication patterns improve, and it’s heartwarming to see their relationship develop.
The pacing is just right, in my opinion. It doesn’t rush things, and it does feel like it gives ample time for each stage. Palmer never makes it feel like Isaac has to heal linearly; instead he plateaus and dips a lot in his road back to somewhat-normalcy. There are some pages that have been designed to give us a visual break or to emphasise the louder thoughts running through Isaac’s head. As a design student, I’m 100% all for it. As a reader, I really appreciate what it adds to the reading experience. It’s a book you close with a sigh before closing your eyes, not ready to let it back onto the shelf quite yet.
I wholeheartedly agree with the positive reviews I’ve seen of this book so far. It will stay on my shelf and in an egg-shaped space in my heart for years to come. A definite 5/5 for me.