Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Netgalley for an early review copy of Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, which will publish February 6, 2018. All thoughts are my own.
From the publisher:
Zebra is the last in a line of anarchists, atheists, and autodidacts. When war came, her family didn’t fight; they took refuge in books. Now alone and in exile, Zebra leaves New York for Barcelona, retracing the journey she and her father made from Iran to the United States years ago.
Books are Zebra’s only companions- until she meets Ludo. Their connection is magnetic; their time together fraught. Zebra overwhelms him with her complex literary theories, her concern with death, and her obsession with history. He thinks she’s unhinged; she thinks he’s pedantic. Neither are wrong; neither can let the other go. They push and pull their way across the Mediterranean, wondering with each turn if their love, or lust, can free Zebra from her past.
An adventure tale, a love story, and a paean to the power of language and literature starring a heroine as quirky as Don Quixote, as introspective as Virginia Woolf, as whip-smart as Miranda July, and as spirited as Frances Ha, Call Me Zebra will establish Van der Vliet Oloomi as an author “on the verge of developing a whole new literature movement” (Bustle).
I tried. I really, really did. But I just couldn’t do it.
When I saw Call Me Zebra on The Millions’ Great First-Half of 2018 Book Preview, I thought it sounded amazing. A romance in a European city with a main character who loves literature? Check, check, and check. However, this book ended up being extremely disappointing and I stopped reading around a quarter of the way through, which says a lot because I generally like to stick it out and finish every book I read.
I think the main problem for me was how disconnected I felt from the narrative. Van der Vliet Oloomi’s writing style was enough to give me a headache, simply because I found it so difficult to decipher the complicated language she used. And the thing is, it wasn’t complicated in a beautiful way, like reading eighteenth century literature, but it was complex in the way that it seemed like she was trying too hard to make it sound introspective and quotable, and it came out disorganized and confusing.
Overall, I don’t have much to say other than Call Me Zebra just wasn’t for me. It’s categorized as “absurdist fiction” in the likes of Camus, Kafka, Vonnegut, etc., so if you’re interested in works by those authors, I’d suggest picking up Van der Vliet Oloomi’s Call Me Zebra. Perhaps I am just not a fan of the genre.