Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go back in time and talk to an earlier version of yourself? What would you say, and what future events might you try to change or prevent? Vacation read #3 was We, a debut novel by Michael Landweber that answers those questions. In We, forty-two year-old Ben finds himself in the brain of his seven year-old self (“Binky”), trying to prevent a tragedy that happened at that time and irrevocably changed his family and his childhood. This is not my typical read; I tend to stick to very literal, realistic books. But the premise of We was very interesting, and raised a lot of questions that were fun to explore.
When Ben first finds himself within Binky, he observes, “I still clung to my memories, my experience, my thoughts. My essence of who I was at age forty-two. It was all still there. I had not lost myself; I had been transplanted. But it didn’t make sense. How could we both be here?” Eventually, he comes to grips with “where” he is and focuses his efforts on convincing a skeptical, suspicious seven year-old that he has the power to prevent something bad from happening to his beloved older sister.
There were a number of poignant elements in We: Ben seeing his family through the eyes of a seven year-old again, knowing that they were headed for sadness and estrangement; Binky trying to cling to his innocence while his older self (often inadvertently) prematurely pushes him into adulthood; Ben’s more mature understanding of the inward battles his family members were privately facing, of which he was clueless during his childhood. I thought Landweber did a good job of juxtaposing adulthood and childhood and pinpointing the ways in which our perspectives change over time.
Less successful for me were the forays into psychology (id battling superego) and the physical descriptions of the process by which Ben entered Binky’s consciousness – caves and tunnels and darkness – which were distracting and hard to follow (again, I like my books very literal). But those were thankfully pretty limited.
Overall, We is thought-provoking, touching, imaginative, and a promising debut from Landweber.