Commentary
5:00 am
Mon March 25, 2013

Book Review: The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards

The protagonist of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards is a writer who has lost every book he's ever written.

The first book, written when he was just a boy, was lost in an airport terminal; the second is disintegrating at the bottom of a frozen lake. He gave his third book to a woman he'll never see again, and still another is in fragments in an African landfill.

And why do I not name the protagonist? Because in the first chapter he is the unnamed son of a stewardess, hanging out at the airport until his mother returns at the end of the day. In the second chapter, he takes the name of the Wilkie Collins detective Walter Hartright, from the book he is reading at the time. In the third chapter, a visiting author in his freshman Fiction & Poetry class dubs him "Pinkerton," which is quickly adopted by the rest of the class.

By this time, we're 56 pages in, wondering, "Are we ever going to find out this guy's name?"

More coy than frustrating, the potential revelation of an actual name piqued my interest. And while an imaginative plot is often all it takes to please a reader, debut author Kristopher Jansma supports his plot with remarkable writing.

I've been anxiously waiting for "The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards" since I read an advance copy in October, and even though I've probably talked about it every day since then, I'm not any closer to justly describing it.

The novel is probably best described by these lines pulled directly from the book: "It is a rare sort of book that resembles nothing else and yet somehow seems intensely familiar. From the first line you feel your own heart begin to beat differently. Once it’s over you want to begin it again. It is a love letter; it is an atom bomb; it is literature we’d forgotten could be written.”