It has been a long time since I have read an entire novel from start to end in one sitting. A few days ago I did exactly that with Theriault’s book, The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman.
That fact in itself makes several statements about the book.
Firstly, it’s an intriguing book that keeps the reader engrossed. Secondly, at 137 pages it’s not a long work. Above all, the author’s curious blend of language with a ‘realist fantasy’ story composed about a seemingly boring, everyday character makes Theriault’s novel difficult to put down.
The plot concerns an introverted postman – Bilodo - who becomes a voyeur of sorts by reading others personal letters. During this process he comes across regular correspondence between a man and a woman done entirely in haiku, a Japanese form of poetry. He becomes so immersed in this vicarious relationship that it takes over his life, much like alcohol takes over an alcoholic’s life.
The postman himself is a sad, forlorn character. The reader empathizes with him more and more as the story develops. Bilodo’s desire for ideal love; his social awkwardness and even the way he finds himself metamorphosizing into another character all make the reader feel for him.
The author’s language is poetic, simple yet descriptive. It evokes emotions of calmness and being in the moment. The words flow like a long poem, reminiscent of reading The Four Quartets by TS Elliot during my student days.
This is a book which can be read at various levels. It has a Kafkaesque feel to it. The book is reality and fantasy set in our contemporary wired society. The ‘unreal’ bits make a social statement. The novel will surely make it into university literature curriculums in the coming years.
The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman is a book which will resonate with a wide range of audiences. It has philosophical undertones and yet its greatest appeal lies in its simplicity. It is an elegant book deserving of much more than the few hours required to complete it.
Imran is a Singapore based Tour Guide with a special interest in arts and history. Imran has lived and worked in several countries during his past career as an international banker. He enjoys traveling, especially by train, as a way to feed his curiosity about the world and nurture his interest in photography. He is available on twitter (@grandmoofti); Instagram (@imranahmedsg) and can be contacted at email@example.com