Written by the ex-mayor of Reykjavik, Jon Gnarr, The Indian follows his early life, studies the way he has lived and shows how hard it is to be different. He has never known what most people define as normal, and that’s good.
The book opens with a little introduction to the Icelandic alphabet, so one does not wonder how to pronounce some names and words. This is good to have as the book includes quite a few, at first, tricky names that are initially hard to read but as the book progresses, it gets just as if you read names like Stefan, Sam, Sarah etc.
When you first look into Gnarr’s history, it’s beguiling to think he does not care about people’s opinion and his career seems as an example of this. However, in The Indian Jon shows a vivid, and unsettling, portrayal of a person who is like a fish out of water, diverging from what others perceive as ‘normal’. His childhood is not what would usually be considered as troubled, not really, but it is hard to feel this as it is grim and yet relentlessly fun and relatable. The inability to fit amongst the others, both his classmates and his family, is easy to read about but hard to get through if you have ever been a misfit. The situations that occur are somewhat similar though distinctive in its own way.
“What they thought ‘normal’ was a mystery to me; I don’t see it until someone else tells me.”
The novel is not fiction, but it is not completely non-fiction either. The author himself states it in the beginning. What the book is a recollection of what he remembers and what others have told him. Reading it, I could say I thought everything happening in the book is credible and not far-fetched. Exactly what may seem as an exaggeration, I feel, is the complete, unbeautified and utter truth. The decision to include notes from psychotherapists is clever and enhances the realistic feel of The Indian. Many of these notes say what you feel and think explicitly as you read the novel.
The Indian by Jon Gnarr is a novel about self-discovery in a world where being different is of no good. It is an ingenious and bleak book, cleverly exploring the life of a ginger misfit, with writing that seamlessly blends Jon Gnarr’s comedic abilities with an emotional connection that results in a need to learn everything there is to know about the boy who didn’t fit in his surroundings and wanted to become an Indian.