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The Strangeness of Life vs. Fiction in “Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World”

The Strangeness of Life vs. Fiction in “Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World”

  • A review of Sasha Fletcher's new novel, "Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World."

Sasha Fletcher is a poet who has catapulted himself onto the fiction scene with his first novel, Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World. An unpolished description of the text could be the following: an absurdist, historical fiction love story set in the near future. Sam and Eleanor are an ordinary couple navigating the mundanity of life in a world where secret police steal people away in black bags, normal police are shooting children and unarmed people in the street, capitalism has forced baseball players to play for minimum wage, and there is the constant threat, as informed by the President, that a nuclear missile is headed for New York at any moment. And it won’t stop snowing.

The narrator is undoubtedly the most compelling element of the text. Frenetic, frustrated, and knowledgeable, the narrator is so excited to tell the story of a young couple in love that they don’t know where to begin, or end, or how to not tell the punchline before the setup, or how to not interject with retellings of personal dreams, or provide history lessons that correlate to the travesties that occur in Sam and Eleanor’s existence. The narrator knows the entire story and will at times skip ahead and give a glimpse of the future of the characters but seems so preoccupied with the world on the brink of collapse that focusing on Sam or Eleanor for too long proves difficult. Readers are bound to stick with the journey because of the narrator’s sheer excitement to speak of something good amongst the chaos. Sam and Eleanor’s relationship seems to be proof positive to an overly optimistic narrator that there is hope for us all.

Readers can observe two of Fletcher’s main goals outright: drawing the dotted line between poor and brutal decisions in American history to dangerous, systemic problems that exist today (in the real world and that of the book); and sifting through the muck of America’s soiled past to present the case to persevere. Fletcher proves that life is stranger than fiction by making readers choose which is the most absurd passage—secret police scurrying people away in broad daylight never to be seen again, or normal police shooting children in broad daylight never to be brought to justice. Is it more likely to be true that the President would lie about an imminent danger in order to control American citizens, or would the President create a situation of imminent danger and scare citizens to influence their political behaviors (or lack thereof)? Because the nuance is not lost on Fletcher, the narrator has to intercede and be emphatic about what is true, or self-deprecating when they forget an important detail. Sam and Eleanor’s love story is what the narrator wants to talk about most but the world crowds them out. The details about the intricate dinners Sam prepares for Eleanor are important because it is where Sam finds his pride when elsewhere in his life he feels like a failure. Eleanor is so thankful for the life she lives and she appreciates the little things like good coffee, eating alone, and long eyelashes.

Despite the depiction of a world crumbling at the seams, Fletcher’s poetic sensibilities appear throughout in some of the beautiful language that comes through in the prose. Eleanor is heartbroken over the life of struggle that Sam has led and she treats him when she can. Fletcher wonderfully encapsulates their dynamic in a brief scene when Eleanor takes Sam on a vacation:

Outside there’s a field in a meadow. It’s dusk. You can tell because of the smell, of how dusk smells, like a door opening into an unlit room. Eleanor brought Sam here and he’s fixing dinner. He doesn’t know where anything is and it’s cute. He isn’t even getting cranky or panicking because they’ve been working on that, on Sam learning how to accept the world as it is, which is doomed and wondrous.

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There are times when the narrator’s preachiness hits too hard and the need to interrupt the interruptions can be jarring. But in a world where satire is violently divisive, Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World holds a place in the canon of media that is yelling to be heard and Fletcher’s command of story is undeniable and worth every exclamation point.

Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World
By Sasha Fletcher
Melville House
Published February 15, 2022

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