The characters in Simon Van Booy's The Illusion of Separateness discover at their darkest moments of fear and isolation that they are not alone, that they were never alone, that every human being is a link in a chain we cannot see. This gripping novel—inspired by true events—tells the interwoven stories of a deformed German infantryman; a lonely British film director; a young, blind museum curator; two Jewish American newlyweds separated by war; and a caretaker at a retirement home for actors in Santa Monica. They move through the same world but fail to perceive their connections until, through seemingly random acts of selflessness, a veil is lifted to reveal the vital parts they have played in one another's lives, and the illusion of their separateness.
"Both the title and epigraph at the beginning of this novel are taken from a quote by Thich Nhat Hanh: 'We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness'. When I first picked up this book, I considered how it would be no mean feat to do justice (whatever that means!) to such a start, but I'm really glad I set aside my skepticism and gave the book a chance. I'm not sure how else to say this, but each simple, yet intricately woven story of each character had me paying attention to strangers as well as familiar people in my personal life in a new way as a result of reading this beautifully nuanced story spanning from WWII to 2010.
Van Booys' generous window into a world of interconnections perceived and unperceived by a compelling cast of characters reveals the anguish, vulnerability, innocence, kindness, and, above all, the mystery of the human heart relative to others. Even before finishing the novel, I was turning back to savor a passage or jumping ahead, eager to better grasp the trajectory through time of key characters. Upon finishing (and I suspect this will be true for other readers) I couldn't help but reread the entire book, marveling at how the telling of such a tale could be accomplished, and wanting to relive the sheer pleasure of rediscovering, through the author's poetic perception of everyday realities, my own."
You can find more of Lynn's reviews in The Denver Voice