“Coming Through Slaughter changed my life.” That is the answer I received from a friend, writer and fan of Michael Ondaatje. To aspiring authors there is no greater admiration. My only experience with Ondaatje thus far had been with the film, The English Patient, based on Ondaatje’s brilliant and harrowing novel of love in the midst of World War II. As is often claimed, the book was better than the movie, an Academy Award-winning Best Picture often described as a masterpiece. Hard to believe, yet Ondaatje proved me wrong. Having written memoirs, books of poetry, and novels, he has proven himself to be an exceptional and versatile writer. And always, beneath the novelist, in the foundations and soul of his writing, lies a poet.
His latest work, Divisadero, tells the story of families torn apart. By this description from guest reviewer Jhumpa Lahiri, Ondaatje ascribes his trademark of taking a story and unfolding the layers and intricacies of life to reveal its true character. “Every sign of the author's genius is here: the searing imagery, the incandescent writing, the calm probing of life's most turbulent and devastating experiences,” explains Jhumpa Lahiri.