AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Fade (1988) – Robert Cormier
In 1988 Robert Cormier published the novel Fade. It is about a boy named Paul who discovers that he has the ability to turn himself invisible, or fade.
Since this book’s publication it has consistently been on the American Library Association’s list of Most Challenged Books for it’s depiction of violence, murder and incest.
The book begins in a small town outside Boston called Monument during the late Depression era. As a teen, Paul is fascinated by tales of his uncle and this mysterious photograph from which everyone says the uncle was there but he isn’t in the photograph. When that uncle visits, Paul learns his secret. Certain male members of his family gain the ability to fade. It is typically passed down from uncles to nephews. His uncle has it, and so does Paul. This ability has been kept a strict secret. Only the individuals with the power actually know about it and never reveal it to the rest of the family. Or anyone else. The uncle warns that it is not the gift it appears to be.
That’s the basic setup in the beginning, but the book is structured very different and goes several different places than you would expect from the first 100 pages or so. It took me by surprise. There are essentially 5 parts of the book, each focusing on a different character and each part jumps around in time forward many years into the future and then back again. And honestly, for the first 2/3 of the book, the ability to fade is almost incidental to the story. The story is really about Paul and his relationships with his family and especially his Aunt and how these relationships affect him later in life.
While using his ability, Paul finds out the fade can actually be a curse when he witnesses things he shouldn’t. And it becomes apparent to him that the fade may be creating in him thoughts and urges he wouldn’t have otherwise. This sets up what happens later in the book as we fast forward into the future. There are other aspects to the fade that are interesting. Paul can somewhat control the ability at first, but it sort of takes on a life of its own later. Also, unlike other invisible men, Paul’s clothes become invisible when he fades. Which is doubly interesting because other physical objects he’s touching, like a knife, won’t turn invisible.
Did I like the book? Yes. It was definitely not what I was expecting, but the characters were interesting as was the aspect of fading.
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