As Hand goes on to kneel and wash the woman's sticky feet Last Supper-style, the symbolism becomes heavy-handed. Ditto the shanty-styled hotels with names like Temptation and the predictable late-night trips to strip bars with the same savior-like women always on duty. Nonetheless, these encounters are all ultimately touching in a different way. For Will especially, the trip is just as much about reconnecting with other humans and renewing his lease on life without Jack. And to whom are you going to give your money at 2 a.m. anyhow? "They're awake and we're awake," he reasons.
Ultimately, it's in moments like these, showing Will's slow descent toward a tearful breaking point, and in the gripping passages near the end that Eggers shines. He truly is a master on the subject of grief—and the anger and confusion it leaves behind. Will's darkly vivid and near-violent railing at God, promising vengeance for Jack's death, is reminiscent of the climactic emotional cloudburst in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Here, though, after the breakdown subsides, Will has transcended his zombie-like state of repressed guilt and pain and reclaimed his existence. As the novel concludes, you are shocked to close the book and reread those opening lines on the cover—to remind yourself that, though Will has rediscovered life, he has only two months of it left. By then, you'd almost forgotten.
YOU SHALL KNOW OUR VELOCITY BY DAVE EGGERS; MCSWEENEY'S BOOKS (WWW.MCSWEENEYS.NET). HARDCOVER, 376 PAGES, $20.