The Last Illusion

The Last Illusion

A Novel

Book - 2016
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"In a tiny village in rural Iran, Zal's demented mother--horrified by his pale skin and hair, the opposite of her own--becomes convinced her baby is evil. She puts him in a wire birdcage on her veranda with the rest of her caged flock, and there he stays for the next ten years: eating birdseed and insects, defecating on the newspaper he squats upon, squawking and shrieking like the other birds.He is rescued from that hell and adopted by a behavioral analyst who brings him to New York and sets out to help him find happiness. Zal is emotionally stunted, asexual, physically unfit, and trying desperately to be human as he stumbles through adolescence. His fervent desire to be normal grows as he ages, but the fact that he still dreams in "bird" and his secret penchant for yogurt-covered beetles make fitting in a challenge. He forges a friendship with a famous illusionist who claims he can fly--another of Zal's bird-like obsessions--and embarks on a romantic relationship as well. His girlfriend, Asiya, crumbling under the weight of her supposed clairvoyance, sends Zal's life spiraling out of control. Like the rest of New York, he is on a collision course with tragedy. The Last Illusion is a wild, operatic, and startling homage to New York and its most harrowing catastrophe. It is tragic but laugh-out-loud funny, irreverent yet respectful, hugely imaginative yet universal"--
Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury, 2016, ©2014.
Edition: Paperback edition.
ISBN: 9781620403068
Characteristics: 323 pages ;,20 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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