Ray in Reverse

Ray in Reverse

by Daniel Wallace

"Daniel Wallace brings to his role as author wit, a subtle compassion, and an offbeat originality that begins, but certainly doesn't end, with the backward unreeling of this refreshingly savvy novel." (The Boston Globe) Regret looms large in Daniel Wallace's latest novel, Ray in Reverse, the funny and poignant story of a life, told backward.

Ray is Everyman at his very best and his absolute worst-even he can't always tell the difference.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.16
  • Pages: 240
  • Publish Date: October 1st 2001 by Penguin Books
  • Isbn10: 0142000094
  • Isbn13: 9780142000090

What People Think about "Ray in Reverse"

Fans of Big Fish will likely get the same sense of enjoyment from Ray in Reverse. What follows is a chronologically reversed narrative about Ray's life, starting from old age and taking leaps further and further back in time to his childhood, before finally returning back to Heaven. I only saw the movie for Big Fish, but much of the magic and wonder that made that movie shine is also at work in Ray in Reverse. While the narrative does leave many questions open to speculation, the way Wallace has tried to capture the essence of a man, rather than the brilliance of a plot, is something worth noting. On the one hand, I loved the way the narrative was pieced together with glimpses; on the other hand, the glimpses also left a few too many holes for my liking, leaving me with a lot of questions at the end. For now, we have Big Fish and Ray in Reverse (and, apparently, a couple other novels I've never heard of before).

It's an awkward read, lacking the requisite continuity of character to allow the reader to follow a backwards timeline with the main story shoehorned into arbitrary book-ends of "heaven" in a seeming effort to make sure he capitalizes on his reputation for somewhat fanciful, tall-tale narratives.

I agree that the only way the Ray character could be redeemed is if you show his life in reverse, concluding with his one good deed - returning the stolen child. I also felt that this deed of Ray's was symbolically significant. I felt that the chapters read more like short stories (self-contained units) than as novel chapters. The Ray in the rest of the book would never have written this kind of letter. I like his use of symbolic imagery that is occasionally more subtle than the Christ child image at the end of the book.

The story unfolds in a series of vignettes from his life in the reverse chronological order, but this backward progression of events does not really affect the novel in either a positive or a negative way, since there is no plot to the novel. I didn't find the events from Ray's life described in the book in any way illuminating towards his character.

It's been a while since I've read a narrative feeling nothing but entertained. Each of the chapters are stories of their own, mirroring the day-to-day encounters of a man's life.

We start with Ray in Heaven after having died of cancer at age 50, then are given mini glimpses of his life from age 50 to age 10, then come back to him in heaven.

I picked up this book at a library sale for the sole purpose that the author penned Big Fish as well, which I dearly loved (especially the movie adaptation).

I bought this at a library resale because the idea of going backwards intrigued me.

I have read three of Daniel Wallace's books, and enjoyed each for different reasons, but have found that his strengths as an author seem to amplify his greatest shortcoming as a storyteller.

Daniel Wallace is author of five novels, including Big Fish (1998), Ray in Reverse (2000), The Watermelon King (2003), Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician (2007), and most recently The Kings and Queens of Roam (2013). O Great Rosenfeld!, the only book both written and illustrated by the author, has been released in France and Korea and is forthcoming in Italy, but there are not, at this writing, any plans for an American edition.