Fiction Review: 100 Years of Vicissitude

AUTHOR: ANDREZ BERGEN

Publisher: Perfect Edge Books
Reviewed by Lori Holuta

Cover of the novel 100 Years of Vicissitude, with two Japanese women in Geisha makeup and shadows of cranes in the background.Mr. Wolram E. Deaps mentions early in 100 Years of Vicissitude that “there is no neat beginning with which to start things.”Since Wolram is the central character and narrator of the story, I wondered what was to come. As this mysterious, thoughtful, and occasionally horrific story unfolded, I realized that while a neat beginning was never promised, the sum of a life can be tidily bundled into packets of time, which provide a workable method to scrutinize one’s existence.

We meet Wolram after his death. He’s understandably confused and having trouble putting everything into context. What he doesn’t yet know is that he’s about to start a journey through time and memory, pausing long enough at each scene to ponder what transpired and the effects that point in time had on the future.

Wolram is joined by a companion in what he assumes is his afterlife, named Kohana. She’s an intelligent, willful, beautiful, sassy, stubborn enigma of a woman who, we will learn, has lived an incredible life as she survived pivotal points in the history of Japan.

It is her life that Wolram explores, soundtracked by a breathtakingly detailed narrative provided by Kohana. Throughout the journey, changes of memory-locale arrive crisply and frequently, drawing protest, fear, anger, and a growing sense of curiosity from Wolram towards his companion. It’s not quite Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley, but one can’t help but recall that classic tale. Although, with old Scrooge and Marley, it was always clear who was calling the shots–not so with our deceased duo. While one definitely knows what is going on, we are left with just enough vagueness to question the ultimate goal of the Grand Tour. Was this a mutual benefit for two souls leaving this world? Was this an endurance test or an exercise in acceptance?

While the book delivers a satisfying ending, it leaves the reader wide open to questioning much about their own existence and place in history. I defy you to read this book and not think about your own past–as well as your present actions, which stack up like cordwood, defining your future. Will this book alter your future?  I believe it may have already altered my own –why should I wait till the end of my lifespan to ponder the worth of my actions and choices? Why not truly live in my moments? And perhaps, one day, when I revisit my life on my final journey, I can take satisfaction from and comfort in the choices I’ve made.

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One Response to “Fiction Review: 100 Years of Vicissitude”

  1. This sounds like a book with a theme that I’ve pursued in my theatre/dance work. Thanks for the review. Will recommend it.

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