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A Review of “Isaac and the Egg”: Magic realism and grief

The book cover of "Isaac and the Egg" a novel about grief and magic realism.

When I started to see this book around my local independent bookstores, I was intrigued but unsure. The blurb does not give much away so you might not think it is a book about grief, alien eggs, or magic realism. It wasn’t until a friend of mine read this book and told me about it, that I decided I had to get a copy for myself. So today’s post is a review of Isaac and the Egg and how magic realism is used to write about grief.

Isaac and the Egg starts out with a man on a bridge. Isaac has worn the same clothes for over a week. He is crying. He is drunk. Then he hears a scream from the forest. The scream and what is behind it, is what sends Isaac’s life in a completely new direction.

Bobby Palmer’s novel is one about grief, magic realism, and ultimately, love. When Isaac loses his wife, he is thrown into a deep and dark kind of grief. He doesn’t shower, he ignores his friends and family, and cannot cope with day-to-day life. Isaac’s grief is the kind I often see in movies and books about death. It is a fever-dream kind of grief. The Victorians might call it hysteria (were it a woman), or melancholia.

The loss is all encompassing for Isaac and he stops functioning. And while this can be true for some people. Grief is very unique and each person will feel and experience it differently. If you’re reading Palmer’s novel and think to yourself, “My grief didn’t look like this?” that is okay too. Similarly, if you’re reading this and thinking about how your friends might be expressing their grief, know that this isn’t the only way to validly express loss.

When Isaac follows the scream into the forest he comes across a large wet-looking egg. He screams and it screams back. Or is it the other way around, Isaac isn’t sure. The egg responds to Isaac’s pain. It is possibly the first thing that Isaac has come across that will acknowledge his pain, and simply let it be.

When Isaac takes the egg home he puts it by the fire and in the morning, Isaac realises he doesn’t have an egg – but an alien friend. Palmer’s use of this alien creature was perfect. It allowed for comedic relief and played with the absurdity that can come after a great personal loss. The magic realism of this egg, how it appears and becomes this strange companion for Isaac is a beautiful and heartwarming story.

Find more of my reviews about grief here.

I’ve thought a lot about Isaac’s egg. In many ways, the egg is an extension of Isaac. It cannot communicate properly, and the egg has no clue about its new world. Much like Isaac is learning how to be a human again, so too is the egg learning what it means to live in this new strange world.

The egg, simply named Egg by Isaac is able to communicate that it is trying to get home – Wawoo. The term seems to mean many things to Egg – it home, family, friendship, and love. All of the things Isaac feels he has lost.

It isn’t until later in the novel that we learn that Isaac had a son, who survived the car crash that killed his wife, and throughout his grief he hasn’t been a very supportive father. The son is in the hospital and it isn’t until the end of the novel where the magic realism and insanity of Egg trying to get home that everything is revealed.

I think that magic realism and grief go hand-in-hand in this story. Sometimes I think the only way we can comprehend things is to think of them outside the realms of reality. Palmer does a beautiful job at balancing the bitter-sweetness of loss. I fell in love with Egg, and it made me wonder about all the strange things I have done since my brother and father died. Sure, I didn’t imagine a giant alien egg-like creature was staying with me trying to get back to planet Wawoo, but I wouldn’t say there wasn’t a bit of magic in my thinking either.

I hope that if you read this book, you will laugh and cry along with Isaac. Thank you for reading my review of Isaac and the Egg: magic realism and grief. I cannot wait to hear what you think of Palmer’s use of magic realism to explore grief. As always, share the reading love.