Monday, November 29, 2010

Coffee and Fate by R.J. Erbacher — 134 pgs


Book CoverIn this slim novella we meet Val, a young woman who can telepathically move objects without touching them. When Val witnesses a crime at a coffee shop, she longs to intervene but a strange older man named Bud stops her. He knows the secret she's hidden her whole life and tells her that intervening in this crime would ruin her life. Shaken and confused, Val agrees to meet Bud again, discovering that the old man has a secret power of his own. It seems that Bud can see particular instances of the future and can mysteriously change the fate he is privy to. The friendship between Val and Bud grows and they find themselves sharing more and more about their powers and their lives. But this friendship is tested when Bud realigns Val's fate after seeing one of his frightening visions. More importantly, Bud begins to tap into Val's powers and instruct her on how to use her abilities to the fullest. Though Val is unsure of why Bud is doing these things, she feels an inexplicable trust in him, and it's not until Bud's final vision that Val discovers that she and Bud must make the ultimate sacrifice in order for the fate of the world to be secure. Both strange and alluring, Coffee and Fate takes its readers on a mind bending journey through freewill and fate and shows them how even the slightest action or inaction can change the course of a life.

I've been reading reviews of this book all over the place, and after reading Sandy and Natalie's reaction to it, I knew this was a book I couldn't ignore. I was all set to make my purchase when an unexpected email arrived from Natalie. Did I want her to send me a copy of this book? You bet your darn bippy I did! When it arrived, I put aside what I was currently reading and sat and read it straight through. I have to say it was a wild ride that really challenged a lot of preconceived notions I had about fiction. The line this book drew between reality and fantasy was interesting to ponder over, and the story it tells was both frightening and exquisite.

Erbacher does a great job of making these two pivotal protagonists seem like normal everyday people, but these people just happen to have the fate of the universe in their hands. Of course, early on in the story, these powers seem like mere flukes of nature and it isn't clear why Bud and Val have been gifted with such awesome abilities. As their friendship grows, so do the powers they have, and despite their reluctance to use these powers, they find themselves doing things that not only change each other's lives but the lives of those around them. There is a lot of second guessing in the story, and both Bud and Val have moments when their conscience is troubled by their rare abilities.

The relationship between Bud and Val was a strange one. Though he's a septuagenarian and she's barely into her twenties, the two dote on each other almost like lovers, and at times, lines of propriety are crossed. I actually think the relationship between them made me a little uncomfortable, though Erbacher does a lot to keep things from feeling too creepy. There's a great amount of affability and affection between these two, which is one reason it was so hard for me to see Bud interfering with Val's fate. It seemed like he was creepily taking advantage somehow and using her naïveté against her. Something about this duo made me feel uneasy and it's arguable whether or not this relationship had sinister hallmarks. Maybe I'm just letting my personal feelings get in the way.

As Bud relates the story of his power to Val, I became sad and frightened for him. In retrospect, there are things Bud should have done that were impossible to do, and he is living a life shadowed by guilt and regret. I think Bud was hoping to change things for Val in order to compensate for the actions of his past, but as time marches on and his complicity with Val grows, Bud begins to see the big picture and forces Val into making a terrible choice. When I finally realized what was happening, I was aghast and felt sick in the pit of my stomach. Though Val has willingly followed Bud along this path, she's not free to make her own choices until it's too late. Bud has once again orchestrated Val's fate, and this time, it will be impossible to shake off these changes.

As I read, I was subconsciously asking myself a lot of questions about fate and freewill. How terrible would it be to be visited by visions of the future, knowing there was something I needed to do to change things, and afterward, wondering if I had done enough or if the changes I made would ultimately prove more catastrophic? How much love does it take for you to sacrifice yourself for another? And does loving someone give you the right to alter their fate if given the chance? These are all sticky questions, and aside from making me think about what I would do in these situations, the book showed me that not everything about life and fate are clear-cut. There are numerous shades of gray involved, and like Bud, sometimes people have trouble interpreting those shades.

Though there were some aspects that were just plain creepy, overall I would have to applaud the story that Erbacher created, not only for its originality but for its ability to provoke strong and strange reactions in its readers. It is, at times, a discomfiting book that presents a lot of sticky ethical questions, but there's no doubt in my mind that it will keep you flipping the pages, entranced by the not-so-normal people that it seeks to capture. A very interesting but dark read.

15 comments:

TheBookGirl said...

The eloquence of your reviews never ceases to amaze me -- just great.
I'm not sure if I want to read this or not now. You make the story sound irresistible, but just reading your discussion of the relationship between the two left me feeling kind of unsettled, so I don't know if I would enjoy actually reading the book. Of course, given its slim length, it's not a huge investment of time, but something tells me this is not a book that you put down and move on from quickly.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This really is one I need to get. Especially after reading The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, which also has a relationship between (in this case) a 91-yr old man and a young girl. Not an icky relationship, but one which the author explains wonderfully, along the lines that no matter how old you are on the outside, you're still a human being on the inside.

Trisha said...

I love the concept and your review definitely has me adding it to the TBR pile!

Robert said...

I think your take on Coffee and Fate is the most indepth, accurate and fair review of my book that I've read yet. Thanks for making the time for it and your kind words as well.

Suko said...

Zibilee, as I read your wonderful review I pictured this as a movie, with Morgan Freeman as Bud (I'm not sure who would play Val--maybe Jennifer Aniston?).

Pam said...

This really strikes me as something I need to read. The creepy factor involved reminds me a little bit of Lolita but, of course, Lolita is way more pronounced. I'll have to check it out. I adore your reviews, by the way.

bermudaonion said...

I read Sandy and Natalie's reviews too and the three of you make me think this is a must read!

Audra said...

Fantastic review. I haven't heard of this book at all but it sounds like a powerhouse. Reminds me of Disquiet by Julia Leigh -- another slender book with crazy oomph.

Amy said...

Wow, this sounds really interesting zibilee, though I'm not sure if I would like it or not. You really make me question myself about books that I would normally skip - you write such great reviews!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Well, I warned you! It is such a wild ride. It tests one's faith, and pushes the envelope in a number of areas. The relationship between Bud and Val really REALLY creeped me out. But at the same time, I had to give Erbacher credit for having the conjones to just go for it. It is a book I won't forget anytime soon.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

The story certainly throws you for a loop but it's a great one, huh? I did question a number of things for myself as well -- how would I react to having either one of these powers? Not too well, I am sure, and I might be better off in blissful ignorance! I'll let the Buds and the Vals of the world handle the fate and consequences, I don't think I'm up for the challenge!

Marie said...

well-crafted novellas can be so amazing, better than full-length novels in many cases, and it takes such a particular talent to write them. thanks for the great review! (and thank you again for not leaving my movie reviewing friends comment-less! :) )

Darlene said...

What a great review Heather. This novella sounds fascinating. I always love books like these that make you question what you would do in the same situation. It does sound like a dark book but that's not something that stops me.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Were you an English Lit major in college? Your reviews are always so amazing.

Jenners said...

You make me want to read this ... but it is hard for me to believe that all of this takes place in just 134 pages!!

Wonderful review ... as always!

Post a Comment

 
Blogger Template by Delicious Design Studio