How does an ostrich feel when he realizes he can’t fly like other birds?
… Ostrichized is a better word for excluded, because ostriches must often feel left out.
Alex is an ostrich. Because he has a brain tumor which means that people treat him differently – his parents, his friends, the pregnant woman on the bus who gets up to give him a seat.
Alex’s tumor doesn’t just get him a seat on public transportation, it seems to make him smart. Really smart. So smart that at 12 years old, he understands quantum mechanics. And relativity. And the uncertainty principle.
Alex’s tumor also means he has no filter, so as a first person narrator, he gets to say whatever he thinks.
Alex believes in the Many Worlds Theory – is he here? or is he there, living another life? Maybe Alex is actually Marcel, living in France and being the perfect child who plays football with his brother for exactly one hour every Saturday, instead of Alex in England who has a hamster named Jaws 2, who no longer recognizes him.
Alex can do no wrong, at least as far as his parents are concerned. Which is why his father lets him drive a car and instead of ream him about smoking, takes him on holidays abroad.
Alex’s thoughts are, understandably, politically un-correct, so much so, if he was older, his thoughts would be censored. But he has no limits, so he describes his albino friend, Chloe, a girl who has dyed her hair black, as having a face that looks like apartheid. Offensive! And he doesn’t get why Rosa Parks was so upset in the first place because sitting in the back of his school bus is a privilege for senior pupils.
You want to smack Alex and teach him about the way the world really works, right? But remember how sometimes your parents would cup their hands over your mouth to prevent you saying exactly what you thought? And, if you think about it, you realize he’s just being a kid and he doesn’t know and he hasn’t lived long enough yet to make some of the connections you will as you read the book. Like why does he not understand what happened to his hamster? Why does he think his parents are getting a divorce?
Alex obsesses about the uncertainty principle, and the cat in Schrodinger’s box. Is the cat dead or alive?
Until you realize, Alex is not just an ostrich, he’s also a cat. The cat. So, does Alex survive his condition or die?
In Alex’s words,
"It's scary how someone obviously had the confidence to divide the world up like this, with such definite boundaries, especially because they won't know until the end whether they were right or wrong."
Ostrich is a book about a lot of things, but mostly about uncertainty. And relationships. And the things you do for love. And it’s about childhood, and the gift of innocence and how you lose it.
Ostrich is a fantastic debut novel by Matt Greene. If I can recommend one fictional work to you this week, this is it.
Click here to purchase a copy of Ostrich for yourself or as a gift. (I’m linked up on Amazon so if you buy from this link, I get a small commission and we’ll both be happy)