Rating:

Reviewed by Lauren Ostberg

Elynia claims to be a book about humility, but the novel-in-verse, which tells fifteen lyrical accounts of loss, turbulence, and five-syllable abstract nouns, takes itself very seriously.

As well it should. It’s an ambitious effort by attorney/engineer/poet David Michael Belczyk, and one that achieves some unexpected moments of insight and emotional authenticity, despite some pretense hurdles.

Elynia tells a multi-generational tale of several peripherally-related characters. “The shoe-man,” introduced in chapter three, has a simple, accessible story-line – an immigrant builds a business, sees it grow with the city, suffers a disaster, rebuilds, and is ultimately forgotten. His story is brought to life with sweeping metaphors (shoe shop as city, city as body, etc.) and effective details – the shoe-man’s wife saved one black and one blue shoe from the fire. “Consuming Romance (The Hypnotist)” raises questions of performance and illusion in relationships.

There are other, less compelling storylines – a child in a graveyard, a painter who finds his work sold for a quarter in a second-hand store, a man who purchases a house, only to realize its flaws and comment on the creative process – all united by the description of a storm at the opening. Belyczyk’s prodigious vocabulary can be alienating. Likewise, the italic voice that sweeps through the book, some sort of primal cry/ echo to “Elynia,” was often irritating.

But displeasing the masses, I think, is a risk you take in any “rawly expressive recreation of the traditional novel,” and I applaud Belczyk for his willingness to go whole hog. When he throws out aphorisms like, “And innately deserving we might deserve another sun. Innately. Naturally believing that we deserve eternity,” it’s not of context. It’s not a disproportionate heavyweight in light reading. It’s a moment to breathe.

Elynia is a novel about disappointment, decay, and the fecund beauty of that process. “The Waitress and the Secret Box,” I think, best encapsulates these themes, and it does so with a grace that makes this book, and this review, difficult to close.

Rating: 3/5

Lauren has always been a voracious, though somewhat indiscriminate, reader. Professionally, she’s run the gamut from bartender to teacher to legal assistant, but she’s published a few articles in Ohio, Montana, Vermont, and Argentina.

Review copies were provided free of any obligation by Dark Coast Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.