F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” meets Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in Daniel Grenier’s epic novel, which tells the story of a boy who ages only one out of every four years.
There’s something extraordinary about Thomas Langlois.
Thomas is a young boy growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with a French-Canadian father, Albert, and an American mother, Laura. But beyond the fact that he lives between two cultures and languages, there’s something else about Thomas that sets him apart: he was born on February 29.
Before Albert goes on a strange quest to find out more about their mysterious relative, Aimé Bolduc, he explains to Thomas that he will only age one year out of every four and he will outlive all of his loved ones.
Thomas’s loneliness grows and the years pass until a terrible accident involving a young girl sets in motion a series of events that link the young girl and Thomas to Aimé Bolduc — a Civil War–era soldier and perhaps their contemporary.
Spanning three centuries and set against the backdrop of the Appalachians from Quebec to Tennessee, The Longest Year is a magical and poignant story about family history, fateful dates, fragile destinies, and lives brutally ended and mysteriously extended.
A solid work . . . magical.
The breadth of The Longest Year is very satisfying, the intimacy even more so. This is an addictive book. And the reason it is addictive is the warm, intelligent, empathic, enveloping voice of Daniel Grenier. Here is an author who excels in lyricism and is unafraid to tell a good, big story. Daniel Grenier is a rare breed: an old soul overflowing with youthful energy.
As a reader, I was charmed by [the] characters Aimé, Jeanne, Thomas, Van Ness, and the others, by their unexpected apparitions and disappearances. They are ghosts born of a magnificent well-documented imagination. [Grenier] is a great talent, [he] possesses a major voice, the invention of Quebec literature in 1958 flourishes thanks to [his] work. Only a genius like Réjean Ducharme could take umbrage, but no other novelist of my generation was able to undertake such a novel.
A leap year of a book: the kind that comes rarely. Grenier’s prose is tough, vibrant, and occasionally bloody, with a wit — and a grace — that recalls George Saunders or Rachel Kushner.
[M]agical . . . spectacular . . . Grenier’s magnum opus . . . The Longest Year is the kind of book you want to tell people about. [Strauss] has masterfully translated L’année la plus longue, Grenier’s genre-volt-face, into The Longest Year — a year so good I wouldn’t mind living it a few times over myself, this novel’s plot begging for another crack.
The Longest Year is a tall tale for the 21th century — insanely inventive, insightful, and moving, at times funny and at times horrifying, epic in scope and yet very intimate in its knowledge of the human heart. Its ideas about life and time, as well as its larger than life characters, will stay with the reader for a while.
Historical fiction at its finest ... full of wit, whimsy, and a wellspring of historical detail
Ambitious. An epic with dense, controlled writing. Large in scope yet intimate . . . A tour de force that takes us across centuries, past frontiers . . . and doesn’t hesitate to flirt with fantasy.
Last year, Catherine Leroux’s The Party Wall arrived like a revelation: a French-Canadian novel with a continent-sized imagination, about connections between people over borders and across time. . . . [I]n The Longest Year Grenier engages a similar continental imaginary. The novel’s magic realist conceit — that a person born on Feb. 29 might age one year for every four — allows an epic swath of history with sweeping geography to match.
The Longest Year by Daniel Grenier is a magnificent novel featuring a character who is born on February 29 and is witness to 260 years of history in the United States and Quebec. Fascinating. Superbly written.