Crashing Eden by Michael Sussman
Crashing Eden by Michael Sussman was an interesting read for me. While very well written and researched, I did not agree with the content and the attitude regarding the faith of Christians and the depiction of God as not the true God. That being said, for everyone out there that is agnostic, or is more flexible in their belief system, I think they will enjoy Sussman’s tale. It should also be noted this book is listed as a YA (Young Adult) but the content and topics seem a bit on the adult side.
The story focuses on Joss, a troubled 17 year old who suffers a head trauma after crashing his bicycle. Joss has spent the last two years in juvenile detention after setting the house of a local bully on fire. He set the fire after his little brother took his own life as an escape from the boy’s endless bullying. Joss is back from juvie and is angry and hurt. His father hides from life and his mother is angry. His little sister, like many little sisters, is constantly there seeking attention from Joss. School isn’t much better. Joss has to spend each day avoiding the same bullies that tormented his brother and see the girl who suffered scaring burns because of his need for revenge. All this changes however, when Joss crashes his bike and starts to hear the ‘Om’. Suddenly Joss is not as depressed and feels like he has a purpose in life- to help everyone discover the ‘Om’ and return to Eden. Without delving in too deep and having spoilers, I will say that this is where I began to feel at odds with the ideas presented in the book. My favorite aspect of Sussman’s book is how he is able to weave an exceptional tale of a somewhat tragic love story between Joss and the girl he disfigured in his retaliation and the story of Joss’s family as they move through the grief process. I really would have liked to see
Overall, it was an interesting read. I felt at times that I was being ‘schooled’ on both psychology and religion and it drew me out of the story. Outside of the educational feel to some parts of the book, I felt the pace was well developed and carried the momentum very well. Sussman’s characters were believable and well cultivated, with the exception of Joss’s mother, who I felt was just a tad too mean and nasty. I really enjoyed the representation of several cultures and religions that were present in Joss’s world as well. I’d recommend this book for adults or teens in late high school or college.