The Lives of Lyman Liri
Julia Ann Charpentier
At times both lyrical and graphic, the author’s innovative storytelling in The Lives of Lyman Liri sets the book apart from other works of intellectual fiction.
Hidden within clouds of philosophical mist that shroud the narrative, Lyman Liri emerges in a series of brief sketches told from the viewpoints of those who knew him. In one instance, a piano teacher and undercover KGB agent says of Liri: “I never believed in voices that spoke to us from the inside. But I knew that, with Lyman, anything was possible. There was something so heartrending about a boy who could turn his own tragedy into a learned lesson. It transformed me. And for the first time in my life, I felt…compassion.”
The author offers a parable that asks what would happen if key decisions could be reversed. She suggests that when one is faced with two inner voices that the mind draws and repels simultaneously, a tug-of-war ensues that may lead to regret regardless of which path is taken. Though some believe that fate and destiny play a part in determining one’s happiness, this foggy perception can lead to a lack of action—no goal, rather than a potentially wrong goal—or, in Liri’s case, a life determined by a dictatorial father obsessed with baseball.
In another portrait of the protagonist, his mother reflects on her son’s domestic entrapment: “He could have been anything he wanted to be—an artist, a musician, a teacher… anything. He even excelled in science. And needless to say, he was a pretty fair athlete. I’ve always wondered, however, regardless of his success, whether he was truly happy.”
The Lives of Lyman Liri shines a spotlight on human nature, exposing raw behavior and cruel intentions as well as sterling morals and simple kindnesses. The book’s primary flaw lies in the vague message at its core, a meaning that is not stated in a straightforward manner. But boiling the central theme down to a phrase could be difficult, if not impossible. Thanks to both the high quality of the writing and the editing, readers will encounter thought-provoking description that elicits genuine emotion.
This well-intended contemplation of the human spirit and the difficult decisions that everyone must make on the journey through life demonstrate that anyone can be a hero or a villain.