A taut socio-psychological thriller (if this is a genre, that is), this lengthily titled book is primarily a sequential series of conversations conducted between the protagonist Thomas and seven other persons whom he has happened to kidnap (yes you read that right) and shackled to posts in different quarters of an abandoned military barracks in Fort Ord. Eerily, one of the kidnapped victims is Thomas’s own sixty two year old mother (yes you read this right too). The entire novel is bereft of passages that are narrations in the third person. Instead the book excruciatingly meanders along in the form of dialogues between the perpetrator and his unwitting hostages. The people picked up by Thomas include inter alia an astronaut, a Congressman, a former Mathematics teacher and a Director of Patients in a Medical Hospital which incidentally Thomas has attempted to burn down!
Dave Egger tries to portray the degenerating state of affairs that has tarnished the American society thereby leading to behaviour that is deceitful and debasing. However the mode which he adopts to convey this plummeting of values leaves a lot to be desired. After the first two kidnappings, the excesses of Thomas becomes highly predictable and takes the most alluring element in any psychological thriller out of the equation – the element of disturbing engagement that is essential to link the reader with the protagonist. Thomas at times seems to be caught in a cross fire of emotions which lends to him an attribute of indecision. He is utterly incapable of coming to terms with and according acceptance to his own acts of indiscretion. The reader is unable to ascribe any motive for Thomas’s delinquencies and is left confused proceeding along the directions that Eggers makes him take. Thomas is neither the vile,ruthless and schizophrenic Aaron Stampler of William Diehl, nor the calculating, calm and calamitous Anton Chigur of Cormac McCarthy. Instead he is just a confounded, neglected and self deprecating adult who in search of some inner meaning of life, proceeds to abduct people at random and discusses with them the facets of life and the outcomes of neglect.
Also the fact that the book is in the form of a prose-play places it in a difficult and peculiar position. Since the author accommodates only conversations, there is no detailing of situations either in the past or future tense. All that needs to be gathered has to be gathered solely and exclusively via the medium of dialogues. And unless it is Julius Caesar or Hamlet, 212 pages of pure drama like depositions tend to be a little jarring on the nerves.
All in all, “Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?” fails to incite the necessary passion and purpose that would usually be expected by the reader from the works of the talented Dave Eggers.