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Big Machine by Victor LaValle

At the recommendation, yet again, from the people at NPR, I elected to read this novel. I had never read anything by Victor LaValle before, even though this is his third novel apparently.

Ricky Rice is the flawed hero in this novel - he's a recovering heroin addict who has been summoned from his janitor's post in Central NY to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont by a mysterious man that everyone has taken to calling The Dean. While there, he and several other recovering social misfits become a group called The Unlikely Scholars and they begin to peruse newspapers from all over the country and investigated The Voice that spoke to the founder of the library at which they study. At some point, Ricky is selected by the Dean to go to California with another scholar - Adele - to assassinate a former scholar that has defected and has started his own rogue group intent on bringing down the Unlike Scholars. During his mission, we learn about Adele and Ricky and the lives that they abandoned in order to become Unlikely Scholars.

I found this book initially very difficult to get into - it was hard for me to see where LaValle was going with it.  But as I read on, I became more fascinated with the story and the characters.  Through them, LaValley attempts to answer questions that related to faith - how do people accept things on faith? Why is it easier for some than others? Can anyone do it or only those that have been "saved?" Do we even know what to believe in and why we believe in that or should believe in that?

It was a pretty interesting read.

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