“Reaching into the bag, he pulled out the journal, and flipped through it. It had never revealed his mother to him. Never helped him understand her, or his life, or why anything had happened the way it had” (pg. 320). This quote made me think about what Professor Green-Simms said in class about the possible irrelevance of the epigraphs and journal excerpts. I wonder if the purpose of these additions is to, in fact be insignificant and yield confusion. In this way Abani has the reader’s journey in deciphering the meaning mimic the struggle that Elvis is also encounters in trying to look for a deeper meaning in what his mother left behind. Elvis is looking for (and hoping for) a greater significance to what is written in his mother’s journal. In the very beginning Elvis is described to “open it and read the recipe as though it were a fortifying psalm” (pg. 11). Elvis’ realization at the end of the novel that the journal entries has always been nothing more than simple cooking and apothecary recipes parallels the reader’s eventual dismissal of these recipes holding some greater meaning in respect to the novel as well. In effect, I wonder if these excerpts serve to do more than just mock the Western reader but instead allow them to sympathize with Elvis by creating, and essentially forcing them to share, a similar experience.
We spent a lot of time in class talking about the significance (or insignificance) of the epigraphs and excerpts from Beatrice’s journal. We have yet to mention, however, that the novel is separated into two “books.” This intentional yet inconsequential separation seems to be just as perplexing as the presence of the epigraphs and excepts. The only difference I noticed between Book I and Book II is that there are no flashbacks in Book II. I feel that this break is only effectual in that it places a greater significance on the final flashback of Sunday’s loss in the election, marking it as the moment that changed everything. I cannot think of some greater purpose that this separation serves and must admit that I feel it encourages Prof. LGS’s theory that the novel’s structure is Abani simply trying to mock the typical western-style novel structure.