Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Searching for One Voice Among the Many

Book Review: The House of Journalists by Tim Finch

The issue of immigration, both legal and illegal, can be complex: convoluted, complicated, and confusing. Tim Finch's The House of Journalists, is equal parts of all of these, but does little to shed any light on the subject.

Focusing on the stories of refugees seeking political asylum, Finch gives us an accurate portrayal of the past terrors, present lives, and uncertain futures these individuals must confront. Mixed in with the often horrific tales of death and torture in their home countries, Finch allows us glimpses of the idyll of their safe home in the House of Journalists, a halfway house for members of the third world fifth estate. Underlying the seeming calm of the House, however, is the implicit threat of deportation. In their new country, the journalists are at the mercy of a faceless government where humanitarian concerns often take a backseat to political expediency.

So far, so good. Where House of Journalists fails is in the telling. The straightforward synopsis I have given above is anything but straightforward in the book. Multiple voices weave through the chapters, shifting from first person to second person to third person, often without a clear indication of who is speaking. At times Finch uses this effectively, but for the most part it simply adds an impenetrable layer of complexity, and the story gets lost in infinite folds of plot.

I believe a more conventional rendering of House of Journalists would have been much more effective. While I'm sure Tim Finch had a lot of fun writing this, it is not as much fun to read. There is a great story lurking in here, but instead of freeing it, Finch has buried it in an effort to be clever. A good first effort - I hope he finds his true voice among the many he presents us here.