Book Review: The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards

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Title/Author: The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma

Genre: Adult Fiction, Literary Fiction, Metafiction

Published: March 21st, 2013 by Viking Press

Hardcover, 258 pages

How I Got This Book: Checked it out from the library

Why I Picked It Up?: Shelf-Awareness did a spotlight ad about this book, and that’s when I added it to my TBR. Because something about it just appealed to me. Probably the unreliable narrator. =)

Book Jacket Blurb:These stories are all true, but only somewhere else.

As early as he can remember, the hopelessly unreliable–yet hopelessly earnest-narrator of this remarkable debut novel has wanted to become a writer.

From the jazz clubs of Manhattan to the villages of Sri Lanka, Kristopher Jansma’s irresistible narrator will be inspired and haunted by the success of his greatest friend and rival in writing, the eccentric and brilliantly talented Julian McGann, and endlessly enamored with Julian’s enchanting friend Evelyn, the green-eyed girl who got away. After the trio has a disastrous falling-out, desperate to tell the truth in his writing and to figure out who he really is, Jansma’s narrator finds himself caught in a never-ending web of lies.

As much a story about a young man and his friends trying to make their way in the world as it is a profoundly affecting exploration of the nature of truth and storytelling, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards is a warm, witty, and inventive literary tour de force that heralds Jansma as a bold, new American voice.”

My Review of this Work:

I have been thinking about this review for a while now. And honestly, I am still not quite sure how I am going to review this book. How can I put into words the INCREDIBLE journey this novel took me on, from first word to last?

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards is a story unlike any other story I have ever read. While I was doing my undergraduate degree, I was fortunate to take a seminar literature course entitled “The Self and Self-Destruction in 20th Century American Lit” and spent an entire semester reading unreliable narrator’s journeys to self-enlightenment and self-destruction. So imagine my surprise when I pick up Kristopher Jansma’s debut novel and find myself in a time-warp back to Dr. Wright’s seminars.

This novel would definitely fall under the term “metafiction”, and if you are wondering what that means, here is the definition:

“Metafiction” is the literary term describing fictional writing that self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artifact in posing questions about the relationship between fiction and reality, usually using irony and self-reflection. —Wikipedia

The entire novel is a story about creating a story. The nameless unreliable narrator spends his entire life trying to write that one story that will launch his career. But this is a story about his life and his incredibly (and unbelievable) journeys. This is a story about relationships and how they change. This is a story about self-discovery, self-doubt, self-destruction, and self redemption. This is a story that tries to tell the truth.

For you, as the reader, you are also searching for some semblance of truth. Personally, I love stories like this. The entire time I was reading, I was engrossed in what the narrator was going through. And at the same time, I wanted to solve this mystery–I wanted to find the truth. While the narrator was going on a personal journey, Jansma sends the reader on a personal journey all my own. I love and appreciate the fact that Jansma paid such attention not only to the story he was telling, but also to the impact this novel has on the reader.

Kristopher Jansma has joined the likes of Phillip Roth, Vladimir Nabokov, Walker Percy, and other fantastic American writers that have created such fantastic post-modern novels. He has created a narrator that you both love and hate, that you both believe and question, that you empathize with and pity.

In terms of style of writing, Jansma has debuted with such a beautiful bang. Not only has created this unbelievable, realistic fantasy kind of story, but the way in which he tells this story is just so engaging and intriguing. I was drawn in from the very first chapter, and I kept reading. I fell in love with his lyrical writing–I have been romanced by the words he has put on the page. He captured me hook, line, and sinker.

I know that I haven’t really talked a lot about what this story is about, but I really don’t think that I can. This is definitely a novel that needs to be experienced, because I think that every reader will connect with this story in a different way. If you enjoy literary fiction that really makes you think, then consider picking up this book. It is, frankly, quite brilliant!

My Bookshelf Rating:

5shelf

A Top Shelf Book!

I was just BLOWN away by this book! This took me right back to my seminar class on identity in American literature. There is something about these characters and this story that you don’t want to stop reading. You WANT to find out the truth. Jansma’s debut novel really showcases his undefinable  talent for story-telling. I have officially fallen in love with this story and everything about it, and I cannot wait to see what else Jansma has to offer the world of literature!

Love and Curly Fries,

Jennifer

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