“Are you real or am I hallucinating?”
She laughed hysterically at that question. “I could ask you the same question. You’ve lived your life like a fictitious person.”
A sort of a cross between A Christmas Carol and Winter’s Tale. That’s what comes to mind in trying to describe Mark W. Sasse’s A Man Too Old For a Place Too Far. The book is more complicated than Dickens’ book, and less brilliant than Helprin’s (but what isn’t?). But it’s that sort of thing. Kind of.
Francis Frick is a 72-year-old banker, and a harder man than Ebenezer Scrooge. He happily does business with arms dealers who supply some of the world’s worst despots. He has no friends, terrorizes his employees, and treats his unmarried daughter with coldness and insult.
It all begins to change one night when he discovers a small, bright, laughing creature – something like an angel or a fairy – hovering over his bed, eating a pomegranate. Her name is Bee. Francis refuses to believe in her until she transports him to a desert island. It’s beautiful there, but there’s nothing for him to eat or drink. His suffering is real enough.
This kicks off a series of transportations (some of them quite disturbing), in which he gets to see the consequences of his amoral actions in the world. A desire begins to grow in him to make up for his sins as best he can – but has no idea how. Doing good is outside his expertise. Bee, and her ominous guardian Ash, exhort him to find something “that doesn’t matter.” That’s the key. It all leads to an explosive climax.
It’s hard to evaluate an idiosyncratic book like A Man Too Old For a Place Too Far. It’s the beginning of a trilogy, so a lot of things remain unexplained. We don’t learn clearly what sort of creatures Bee and Ash are, and what their purpose is. This might even be a Christian book (Sasse is a well-known last name in American Lutheran theology), but I’m not sure.
But the book was fascinating, easy to read, and enjoyable. I look forward to reading more. Recommended.