This loose mosaic tells the near-autobiographical story of the Tem’s family, at times sad, tragic, and heart-wrenching, yet always hopeful. The madness in their method brings forth an often horrific life to the text – these tag-teamed stories cross back and forth from a world of magical realism to surreal, playing with reality to reveal the truth.
As shown in The Man on the Ceiling, the Tem’s lead an extraordinary life – they adopt troubled and abused children, raising and loving them as their own. The exploration of their past, and their lives with their children and all the fears of life lies at the heart of this mosaic. A year ago I would have reacted very differently to this book, but now I have entered the world of parenthood. Part of the Tem’s journey that is shared deals with the death of a child. In the past I would have found this appropriately tragic, but not having children, I would not have had a true connection and relation to such a tragedy. As a parent nothing causes more dread than the even the thought of a child dying, much less my own. It’s this aspect of the book that affected me most.
In many books the reader can’t help but wonder home much is taken from an author’s own life. The Man on the Ceiling repeatedly emphasizes that ‘everything we tell you is true’. With this statement a line is crossed, the world of fiction blends into the intimate lives of the authors. So assured of the autobiographical elements, I eventually found myself questioning that very ascertain of truth – have the Tem’s turned a common reaction upside down?
Literary – the word comes with baggage in the genre world, yet literary describes The Man on the Ceiling well. Through the exploration of the Tem’s lives universal fears and conditions are revealed strait out of the American heartland. Plot is fluid, unfocused, even nonexistent. Reality twists, turns, and climbs on the ceiling to reveal truth. Such an exploration won’t appeal to all – in fact, it didn’t exactly appeal to me. As powerful as the Tem’s story is, it feels as if it pulls up short, not going the full length it could and should have. I expected a powerful affect on me that would linger for days and even weeks after finishing the book – not only is this affect absent, but the book is already fading away to obscurity. Combined with this not being my usual reading fare and the lack of that final, expected punch, I’m left with luke-warm (at best) feelings for the book. 6/10