This book is kind of hard to read. Dimechkie seems to be one of those writers who takes grim delight in describing icky things in unflinching detail: illness, sex, the adolescent male physique, even the mechanics of eating. Topics that would benefit from lower lighting and less scrutiny are instead thrust under a bald 100-watt bulb.
Fortunately, the plot exerted a strong enough pull to keep me from recoiling too much from the unsavory details. Max and his father Rasheed live in New Jersey. Before, they lived in Lebanon, but Max was too young to remember it, and his father never wants to talk about their past. Rasheed has fully embraced American life and has no desire to maintain ties to their former culture. He tells Max that his mother and the rest of their extended family are all dead, and for a while at least Max accepts his story as truth.
But it's not the truth. Even the most basic facts of Max's existence turn out to be lies, and somehow he will have to come to terms with his new reality. Max's effort to piece together his true history is the most compelling element of the novel. Why did Rasheed lie about something so huge? Is he the hero or the villain of Max's story? Can their relationship survive such a massive betrayal? And the most interesting question to my mind, how will Max reframe his identity after growing up completely severed from his culture, his family?
Despite the squirms it may induce, Lifted by the Great Nothing is a promising debut novel and an interesting exploration of family, love, and deception.
With regards to Bloomsbury USA and NetGalley for the advance copy. On sale May 19.