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Mr. Breakfast


Mr. Breakfast

There is time travel, there is the theory of the block universe, and there is the multiverse. In fiction, the multiverse generally posits that there are parallel or alternate lives that take place, perhaps branching off based on decisions and perhaps just existing alongside each other. Setting a story in a multiverse gives authors the ability to explore hefty themes while playing with time and space in creative ways. Prolific novelist Jonathan Carroll takes full advantage of the literary multiverse in his latest book, MR. BREAKFAST, giving readers a thoughtful and quirky look at choice, desire and the meaning of self.

Graham Patterson is not really making it as a stand-up comedian and has just been dumped by his girlfriend. Trying to come to terms with the fact that his life is not going as planned, he buys a convertible and hits the road, hoping to clear his head and mend his heart. When the car breaks down in North Carolina, Graham grabs lunch and goes for a walk. He ends up inside a tattoo parlor called the Hardy Fuse (or is it the Hearty Fuse?), flipping through a book of the most amazing designs he has ever seen.

"All of the Grahams are compelling characters and wisely open to the wisdom and inspiration to be found even in the mundane. This really interesting and weird novel challenges and delights."

Before he knows it, Graham schedules an appointment to get one of his own. The tattoo he chooses, called the “breakfast tattoo,” depicts a bee inside the stomach of a frog inside the stomach of a hawk inside the stomach of a lion. And this intricate and compelling tattoo, Graham will discover after he has it on his arm, will give him limited access to the multiverse, the ability to visit two parallel lives and decide which he wants to stay in.

Each life offers Graham something he longs for --- success, companionship, contentment, love. But each presents dangers as well. Is it worth trading his physical safety to become a famous comedian? Is it worth giving up dreams of fame for a happy and healthy family? What does he value most? Things get even more complicated when the boundaries between the parallel lives begin to thin, and Graham becomes a sort-of ghost for his other selves. Still, the forces behind this mysterious tattoo magic do provide him some guides along the way in the form of a dear friend, some dead high school bullies, and the tattoo artist, Anna Mae Collins.

Bringing the story, and the lifetimes, together is Graham’s photography. In one life, he becomes a photographer famous for haunting images of abandoned places and everyday moments. These photographs and the context in which they were taken, in particular ones that are not visible in all the spaces of the multiverse, punctuate the novel and give Carroll a way to anchor a book that easily could become untethered altogether. They also serve as symbols and metaphors for the ideas and decisions with which Graham wrestles.

For a book centered on such weighty themes, MR. BREAKFAST is not a difficult read. Carroll’s style is often lighter and his tone funnier than the description would lead you to believe. Still, he gives readers so much to consider about love, art, disappointment, loss, the wondrous possibilities of life, and the vast unknowables of the universe. All of the Grahams are compelling characters and wisely open to the wisdom and inspiration to be found even in the mundane. This really interesting and weird novel challenges and delights.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 27, 2023

Mr. Breakfast
by Jonathan Carroll

  • Publication Date: June 20, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House
  • ISBN-10: 1685890881
  • ISBN-13: 9781685890889