Mistrust of the Inanimate
Ruth Ozeki’s novel, The Book of Form and Emptiness, is a conundrum—at turns enraging, confusing, impenetrable, intriguing, luminous, and beautiful. Its protagonist, Benny Oh, is the precocious child of an American mother and an Asian father. His mother, Annabelle, though insecure and unassertive, has found happiness in the cocoon of her family. His father, Kenji, is a jazz-clarinetist and is a loving but free-spirited and somewhat irresponsible husband and father. Benny is kept safe and is content in the closed circle of his family group. This happy domesticity is destroyed, however, when Kenji, drunkenly returning home from a gig, lies down in the alley behind their house and is killed by a truck hauling live chickens.