Written in a minimal, sparse style, this is a book that I couldn't put down. The story concerns a man, dying, who is on a journey through his fictional country to collect data for the census. Accompanied by his son who has Down syndrome, questions abound concerning the census: What information is being collected? What is the purpose of the census? Is the government benevolent or malevolent?
The journey of taking the census, it seems, functions as a metaphor for the journey of life itself. Each town is named after a letter in the alphabet, starting with A, and just as the pair approach Z, so too does the narrator approach his own end. The towns and the characters inhabiting them vary wildly. Many of these people have stories to tell or food for thought to offer, and how they interact with the protagonists, in particular, how they treat the boy with a developmental disability, reveal a lot about them. The receptions that the protagonists receive, both warm and hostile, reflect society's at-times incomplete understanding of such disabilities, and the need for progress.
Often philosophical, part plot and part musing about one thing or another, the story is told in a dark, haunting style. Every single word felt like it mattered. Mysterious and expansive, this book is highly thoughtful. It left a strong impression on this reader. In all, I would have to give it a very high recommendation indeed.