Return to the City by J.E. Keels

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Return to the City by J.E. Keels

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

December 19, 2011
No less than a philosophical masterpiece, haunting and challenging all at once. For better or for worse, Sterling sticks with me, as do a good handful of others from this–well, this “city”…


April 10, 2014
Okay, so this might be a bit more of a treatise than a review, but in light of this novel, it’s necessary to point the following out.

I was privileged to serve as editor for this book, and while I mostly edit nonfiction, there are indeed varying qualities of writing that come across my desk, so to speak. If a work wasn’t worth my putting in a good word for, I wouldn’t do it–especially not these days, when I’ve cut down on when, where, and how I use what words I do have. Granted, I mostly read classics and “girly” books, so I’d never read anything quite like Keels’s writing before he started putting out his work. He’s a brilliant storyteller. On the night I finished Return to the City the first time around, I remember sitting for about a half-hour. Just sitting, silent, too affected to do anything else. I’ve said before that it’s not a novel for the faint of heart, but if you are faint, read it anyway.

What I appreciate about this novel is that it doesn’t shy away from saying what it has to say about life, death, love, lust, hatred, denial, purpose, hope, and a host of interwoven themes. Sterling is as human as they come, a young man who, like all of us at some point, has to come to grips with what he has become and what he’s going to do about it. To date, this is among the top ten longest novels I’ve ever read, up there with Shōgun, Middlemarch, The Portrait of a Lady, and Ben-Hur. I’ve heard it said that few to no people in present society have the attention span to read long books anymore, but I have as hard a time believing that I, far from being the only authentic lover of literature in the world, have suddenly lost the ability to pay attention to books as I do believing that works like Les Misérables, Anna Karenina, and even Gone with the Wind are going to disappear because no one can read that many words from one author anymore. I believe a nice, long David Copperfield is still going to have its place beside a nice, short Of Mice and Men, as it’s all literature worth reading, and there aren’t too many works or words out there. There just aren’t enough days for one person to read them all in his/her lifetime.

I’m glad that this authentic lover of literature, in the few days she’s been granted in this age of time, has had the opportunity to spend some of them reading Return. This story truly left me with the impression that, in so many ways, authenticity is everything.



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