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The celebrated short-story writer's debut book is magical, unusual, and a little too slow.

Kelly Link is one of the best providers of current short fiction, and her admirers have been impatiently awaiting her entire novel to see what she could do with it for years.

With the publication of Link's first book, The Book of Love, that wait is now over. And in embracing the flexibility that comes with a lengthier structure, the author has produced a 600-page monster of a book that subverts reality, immerses readers in the lives of multiple characters, and erases any idea of what constitutes speculative fiction and literary fiction.

As a voracious reader and book reviewer, I'm curious to see how other critics approach this novel's summary. The story opens late one evening with Laura, Daniel, and Mo in a classroom with their music teacher and an unexplained object. The children appear to be dead, yet they're not. From their hometown of Lovesend, Massachusetts, they vanished a year ago. Although they were thought to be dead, which they are, their teacher—who has magical abilities—alters reality now that they are back. Rather than being deceased, they are all returning from a protracted sojourn studying in Ireland. Maybe their teacher is aware of what transpired.

With their new reality set in place and their story in their minds. After being transported back to their former life, the youngsters must deal with all that occurred while they were gone and attempt to predict what will happen next. Additionally, "2 RETURN/2 REMAIN" was a mysterious statement written on the blackboard in the room where they first appeared. What does that signify? What effect does that math have on how their return turns out? Aside from the kids from the other side, their strange rebirth has brought otherworldly beings with their own plans, adding to the already complex life they lead as the undead. In addition to adjusting to their new circumstances and navigating their new environment, Laura, Daniel, and Mo must also crack the mystery of their return, and more than their own resurrection hangs in the balance.

That's a long summary, but it only touches the surface of The Book of Love, which tells a story of supernatural menace and also examines what it means to be truly alive. It also explores the complexities of love and friendship, family drama, grief, resilience, and the limitless power of adaptability. This novel is evidence that Link can be as strange, funny, and clever in novel form as she is in short stories, following years of award-winning short stories in some fantastic venues and a few outstanding collections like Get in Trouble, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and White Cat, Black Dog.

The Book of Love tells the story of love, as well as death, resurrection, growing up, and terrifying situations involving siblings. This narrative even briefly discusses writing. It is about stories. Maryanne, Mo's grandma was a prodigious writer who authored 73 novels in 42 years before she passed away while Mo was gone. She was able to support herself and take care of Mo when his mother died through writing. She was a Black woman as well. Small details like that lead to additional discoveries, so in addition to providing us with information about Mo, Link also offers us a biography of Maryanne and talks about publishing and the challenges of a Black woman writing a highly successful series about a white lady. It's typical to find stories inside stories, narratives that explore memories and long sections that delve deeply into the characters' inner worlds—both psychological and emotional. For some readers, this book will actually be too much. While this is an enjoyable book, it's also an assault on the senses, a genuine blitz of words and storylines that stray from the main plot.

This is a lengthy book that is both fascinating and disorienting. While some story points are confusing, some lines are incisive in their honesty and clarity. As a wizard, Link crafts spells that follow a dream logic that only she completely comprehends. The Book of Love is, in a nutshell, a magical, confusing, heartfelt, strange, wonderfully written novel that delivers everything fans of Link's short fiction expected while also packing a few surprises for adults. It's a book about survival and danger that starts with a group of dead kids and only gets weirder from there. Narratively, it shows a mighty writer with a unique voice at the height of her powers.

Occasionally, the slow setting serves as a means of delving into these intricately detailed love stories and this small village with a rich texture. There are moments when it seems purposefully slow, with details being suppressed until they are ready to be awkwardly thrown onto the page. Such awkwardness is startling for a writer with Link's talent. If this is your first time reading Link's work, you might want to start with her complex and twisted short stories, which she is fully proficient at, before diving into this peculiar novel.