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ALMOST EVERYTHING VERY FAST, a novel by Christopher Kloeble, reviewed by Elizabeth Mosier • Cleaver Magazine
Like the best coming-of-age stories, Christopher Kloeble’s Almost Everything Very Fast addresses universal concerns by asking personal questions. Nineteen-year-old Albert, raised in an orphanage, wants to know why he was given up by his anonymous mother and the father he knows: Frederick Arkadiusz Driajes, a grown man with a childlike mind. Albert has gotten nowhere by following the “Hansel and Gretel crumbs” he’s found in Fred’s attic: a photo of Fred with a red-haired woman, a few auburn hairs plucked from a comb. When Fred’s terminal illness imposes an urgent deadline, Albert visits him in Königsdorf one last time—but his “infinite questions” lead to still more questions: What is love? In what ways do family ties bind us? Is nurturing natural? Do parents cause their children more harm than good? In Segendorf, Fred’s ancestral village, to love is to discard. For nearly 400 years, residents have been compelled to hurl their Most Beloved Possessions off the rocky bluff of the highest hill at the annual Sacrificial Festival. During one such celebration in 1912, incestuous (and murderous) twins Jasfe and Josfer Habom conceive a son, Julius, whose birth brings shame but also relief: the baby is not a “Klöble”—the local term for the “clumsy, stupid fellows” who “test a parent’s love.” Unknotted from their lineage—their mother died in childbirth and Josfer kills their disapproving father—they are scorned by hypocritical neighbors in a village where inbreeding is a cultural norm. Their second child, Anni, orphans herself and her brother by burning down the family’s home with their beloved parents inside. Julius takes off with Wickenhäuser, the town mortician, who offers the boy as a companion to his war-widowed mother Else (Julius’s “first love”), to pay for freedom from filial responsibility. Back home, Anni wastes away until she marries Arkadiusz Driajes and gives birth to the Klöble-esque Fred, rekindling her brother’s covetous love. Meanwhile, Julius impregnates a woman he doesn’t love—the devoted Mina, who gives birth to Ludwig, who will one day marry Klondi, who loves the idea of motherhood but can’t stand the scent of her actual daughter, Marina.