The Conception of Zachary Muse by Jason Hinojosa

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The Conception of Zachary Muse by Jason Hinojosa

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: One for those of us who like our prose to be poetic, gently lulling us through a story with plenty beneath the surface. It may only be 144 pages, but there's a lot in both story and food for thought and imagination.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: February 2013
Publisher: Roman Books
ISBN: 978-9380905440

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Evangeline Muse gives birth to Zachary alone in her special lagoon… but that's starting at the end. In the beginning, Thomas Greene is a tutor and Will Archer a talented wood carver who both accept employment from Michael Muse. What they don't realise at that moment is, once they meet his beautiful daughter, Evangeline, nothing will ever be the same again for any of them.

In his debut novel, The Last Lawson (2012) author and American schoolteacher Jason Hinojosa produced a whole family saga in 200 pages. His gift for brevity pops up again with The Conception of Zachary Muse which is even shorter. In fact I read it an hour, but it was an hour well spent.

If I were into spoilers I could sum up the entire plot in three sentences but this doesn't matter as the journey is as important (and as beautiful) as the destination. As we read, we still want to find out what happens at the end (in my case, giving up the opportunity of breakfast to finish it) but the poetic lilt of the writing ensures that, although the words are fewer than usual, we have enough pictures to make an accompanying mind movie of a languid land populated by simple, sensitive souls.

Jason Hinojosa takes us to a small village somewhere exotic; a land of lagoons, rubber trees and a literal/symbolic earthquake where an anonymous villager tells us the story in a flashback after Zachary's birth. Everything is given a literary polish, even the ultimate act of one-on-one intimacy itself is described in a way that wouldn't cause offence. When we read about someone's hands around secrets it leaves us in no doubt where we are in the romantic act while sparing blushes and the fear of hesitant explanations to younger members of the family. There were one or two places where I felt that Jason was pushing the lyrical boat out and trying a little too hard, but these are only small stitches in a larger tapestry that don't spoil the whole picture.

The style of writing invites us to dig for deeper meaning in this fable-like tale. There are echoes of church, religion and worship in the way that Will carves his masterpiece and interacts with the wood. There are also teasers. For example, the way in which we're enticed to guess 'the word' Evangeline speaks to one of her suitors. We can guess but are we right?

We understand that within its linguistic richness it examines themes like love, loss and healing but I was left feeling that I needed to check the nuances again just in case I've missed something. There again, thinking about it, that's the great thing about a book that only takes an hour to read: there are 24 opportunities in each day in which to do it all over again.

If you've enjoyed this, you'll also enjoy The Descent of the Lyre by Will Buckingham which shares the same lyrical quality but over a longer story.

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Buy The Conception of Zachary Muse by Jason Hinojosa at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Conception of Zachary Muse by Jason Hinojosa at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Conception of Zachary Muse by Jason Hinojosa at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Conception of Zachary Muse by Jason Hinojosa at


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