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All Shall be Well; And All Shall be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall be Well

by Tod Wodicka

If you’re prone to judge a book by its cover (of course you aren’t!) then you would be way off-course with this one. There is nothing in the title (taken from Julian of Norwich, AD1234) or the image (Ghirlandaio’s Portrait of an Old Man and a Boy) that prepares you for this story of contemporary life in Queens Falls, New York. The only clue to the unusual narrative is in the old man’s enormous lumpy nose – the very same protuberance that has blighted the life of the protagonist, Burt Hecker.

Burt, aka Eckbert Attquiet, is a 63-year-old mediaeval re-enactor, drunk, cuckold, hapless parent and general ‘loser’ (as his children would say) who, despite everything, captures our hearts and breaks them with his bungled attempts to right his earlier wrongs. When he is apprehended by police on a charge of driving a stolen car, drunk on home-brewed mead, without a licence (he’s never learnt to drive) he seems to have hit rock bottom. But it is the catalyst for his journey to find his beloved estranged son, Tristan, and his adventures in Europe.

ALL SHALL BE WELL (etc) left me with several burning questions including “Does Lemkovyna really exist?”; “What is a Holy Whim?” and “Could a 32-year-old really have written such a wise and insightful book?”. It is a terrific novel, deeply moving, haunting, and in some places very funny indeed.

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