Review: Three Years with the Rat by Jay Hosking

27833835*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Three Years with the Rat

Author: Jay Hosking

Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, from Penguin Canada Books Inc.

Publication Date: August 9, 2016

ISBN: 9780670069378

Three Years with the Rat

Synopsis from Goodreads:
After several years of drifting between school and go-nowhere jobs, a young man is drawn back into the big city of his youth. The magnet is his beloved older sister, Grace: always smart and charismatic even when she was rebelling, and always his hero. Now she is a promising graduate student in psychophysics and the centre of a group of friends who take “Little Brother” into their fold, where he finds camaraderie, romance, and even a decent job. But it soon becomes clear that things are not well with Grace. Always acerbic, she now veers into sudden rages that are increasingly directed at her adoring boyfriend, John, who is also her fellow researcher. When Grace disappears, and John shortly thereafter, the narrator makes an astonishing discovery in their apartment: a box big enough to crawl inside, a lab rat, and a note that says This is the only way back for us. Soon he embarks on a mission to discover the truth, a pursuit that forces him to question time and space itself, and ultimately toward a perilous confrontation at the very limits of imagination.


This is one of the most imaginative and exciting novels that I’ve read this year. Taking place in my local city, Toronto, it was familiar yet so very strange and mysterious. It’s sci-fi meets noir mystery. It’s full of theoretical science that becomes very real in the folds of these pages. Hosking writes to his reader without shying away from technical terminology and scientific theory, meeting his reader on an equal plain. It’s an intelligent story with incredibly complex characters and situations who address ideas of existentialism and being. It’s thought provoking and the narrative moves along quickly.

This story questions time and space. It posits the idea of alternate dimensions wherein every and any possible can and does exist. Characters face feelings of love and loss as they try to navigate familial and romantic relationships. The narrator, nameless, but so clearly defined by his actions and interactions with those around him, drives this story forward, finding passion only in the search for his sister. Like the narrator, we are on the outside. We are learning as he does, but our capacity to understand only stretches as far as the narrator’s knowledge. This story is fragmented, alternating between past and present, seemingly at random. We construct the story in fits and starts in a manner that only ceases to enhance our positioning alongside the narrator. On the other hand is his sister, Grace. She is the one character who clearly understands everything in her world(s), however her knowledge seems to be inaccessible to us, the reader. Because of this distance, the ending is a bit convoluted so I’m not entirely sure what it is intended to mean, but I loved it nonetheless. 5 stars!

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