The Last Illusion

The Last Illusion

A Novel

Book - 2014 | First U.S. edition.
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"Utterly original and compelling, The Last Illusion weaves Iranian myth with contemporary American neurosis to create a bittersweet poetry all its own." --Claire Messud
     From the critically acclaimed author of Sons and Other Flammable Objects comes a bold fabulist novel about a feral boy coming of age in New York, based on a legend from the medieval Persian epic the Shahnameh, the Book of Kings .
     In an Iranian village, Zal's demented mother, horrified by the pallor of his skin and hair, is convinced she has given birth to a "white demon." She hides him in a birdcage for the next decade. Rescued by a behavioral analyst, Zal awakens in New York to the possibility of a future. A stunted and unfit adolescent, he strives to become human as he stumbles toward adulthood. As New York survives one potential disaster, Y2K, and begins hurtling toward another, 9/11, Zal finds himself in a cast of fellow outsiders. A friendship with a famous illusionist who claims to the Bird Boy's delight that he can fly and an affair with a disturbed artist who believes she is clairvoyant send Zal's life spiraling into chaos. Like the rest of New York, he is on a collision course with devastation.
     In tones haunting yet humorous and unflinching yet reverential, The Last Illusion explores the powers of storytelling while investigating magical thinking. Its lyricism, inventiveness, and examination of otherness can appeal to readers of Salman Rushdie and Helen Oyeyemi. A celebrated chronicler of the 9/11-era, Khakpour reimagines New York's most harrowing catastrophe with a dazzling homage to her beloved city.
Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury, [2014]
Edition: First U.S. edition.
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9781620403044
Branch Call Number: KHA
Characteristics: ix, 323 pages ;,22 cm


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Aug 15, 2017

I wouldn't call it a gripping page turner.... maybe towards the middle. Interesting use of a "feral child" as a main character. I set it down for a few days when I only had 10 pages left, something I've never done. I even considered just not finishing it, but I did, and it really didn't make a difference.

It's a OK book, easy to read, might be better if the reader is familiar with The Book of Kings or a teen reader (it's inarguably a good coming of age story).

Cynthia_N Feb 04, 2017

This book is based on a Persian folktale about a demon being raised by a bird. Zal's mother thinks he is a "white demon" and raises him in a bird cage. He is found and rescued and the story is focused more on his adult life. Add in some magic, some odd friends, and some love and you get a really good read! I enjoyed it!

FindingJane Mar 22, 2015

Zal’s beginnings are truly bizarre—being raised as a bird when you’re a growing human being will do that for you. The efforts to rehabilitate him and get him to function as a human being are interesting, too, if swiftly glossed over by the author.

However, once he’s free of his cage, the fun begins—or not. Zal can’t laugh or smile, a situation supposedly common to many feral children. But Zal’s efforts to be normal lead him down many twisted paths. Normalcy is a nebulous target, like being “rich enough” or popular. The slightest thing can shake you from your pillar or have you labeled a freak, something Zal finds out all too often.

Zal’s view of the world around him is mainly a closed-in one, since he’s preoccupied in worrying about how people will see him. His choices revolve around hiding his entomophagy (insect-eating habits), his quirky beginnings and shameful obsessions about birds and cages. This gives the novel a claustrophobic feel, especially when Zal dips into depression, refusing to leave his home. He shuttles back and forth between what feels like narrow enclosures consisting or tiny rooms or a series of dead-end jobs.

This novel struggles for portent and meaning and yet winds up meaning very little at all. The ending left me feeling curiously disappointed and let down in some way. A few of the main characters try so hard to bring meaning to their lives, often in exaggerated ways, that the finale is both overblown and deflated as a popped balloon. Zal gets a weird, maddening girlfriend, obtains and loses employment and quarrels with his father. In the end, the reader realizes that Zal is normal, i.e., he’s just as screwed up as everybody else. So why all the fuss?

BklynKalliopiM Feb 02, 2015

An incredible new novel from Porochista Khakpour - Weaving together traditional myth and the realities of our post 9/11 world with brilliance, Khakpour tells the story of young Zal - a boy who feels more bird than human at times. This is an unique book, and is certain to appeal to readers looking for something new in fiction. Also recommended for folks who love psychology related reading, coming-of-age stories, contemporary fiction, magical realism, and mythology.

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