“People trying to help you when you’re past help are raw and helpless. Nobody wins: you get nothing; they feel worse.”

20575425What is this book about?

Sean greatest invention is Trace Italian, a play-by-mail role playing game that is more successful than you would imagine. When two teenagers take the game too serious and die because of it, Sean is asked to defend himself and his work. This causes him to reflect on a day in his own life, where he made a self-destructive decision that changed his entire future.

Why is it boring?

A lot of this book is ruminations on Sean’s past, which slowly will give you an understanding of why he did what he did. Besides the more psychological aspects of the novel, there’s also quite some time spend on the specifics of Trace Italian – which I found fascinating – but can be boring for people with a severe dislike to role playing games.

Who would you recommend it to?

John Darnielle is the singer and songwriter of the band The Mountain Goats, so if you didn’t know that and you do love their music, definitely read this book. And anyone interested in old skool role playing games and reading about peculiar main characters can not leave this book untouched.

Why should I read it if it’s boring?!

Darnielle is such a wordsmith! I love his lyrics and although Wolf in White Van isn’t nearly as poetic, he crafts a narrative that captures you from start to finish. He tells the story of Sean in a roundabout way, making sure that you will only find out what he actually did to himself by the end of the book. This makes sense as it is a good – and maybe somewhat easy- way to keep the reader’s interest, but it never bothered me. The story often eludes to what has happened and after a while I could make a pretty good guess, so the mystery was never the important thing. The journey towards his thoughts about that specific night, again reliving what he did to himself, is actually what the story is about. Sean is strange and a bit fucked up, but at the same time, he’s an amazing person who created an entire fictional world for other people to play in. People like himself, outsiders or people who feel different from others. It’s a place for them to be safe and to be themselves. What I liked about Sean is that he didn’t seem all that weird before his facial disfigurement. People wouldn’t stare at him in the street and his parents didn’t worry all that much about him either. But the fact that you seem normal, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are. To me this book was about people who stand out, either physically or psychologically and how they come to terms with themselves. We all deal with dark thoughts and bad feelings, but it doesn’t matter what you feel, but how you deal with them. Wolf in White Van is a perfect study in portraying the long and lonely process of accepting who you are and the decisions you’ve made.

Rating: 4/5

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Esmée de Heer is head honcho over at the Bored to Death book club website, writing the daily content and making sure the site stays up and running. She's one of the founding sisters of the book club and enjoys reading and giving unsolicited love advice.

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