Review: A Life Transparent by Todd Keisling

A Life Transparent by Todd Keisling

Let me be honest from the start: this book isn’t going to win any high-literature prizes any time soon. Thank goodness then, that it isn’t trying to. A Life Transparent is not a book that caters to the English professor, or the academic that read and understood Ulysses the first read through. It forgoes that audience for one that is often underrepresented in our society. That’s right, it’s talking to you, Mr. Third Overtime This Week, and you, Ms. Boss Takes Credit Again. This book is aimed squarely at the office workers and coporate bottom-feeders, and it never misses its mark.

A Life Transparent centres around the life of a telephone marketer named Donovan Candle. He hates his job, hates his boss, and hates the ladder-climbing ideal. The day-to-day grind has long ago reduced his college dreams of being a successful author to a distant memory, and he lives with his wife and cat (the amusingly named Mr. Precious Paws) in domestic stasis. A stasis that is soon shifted when Donovan wakes up to find himself literally fading into the background and experiencing visions of a world painted in grey. In desperation, he confesses his bizzare situation to a customer, who assures him that events will soon be looking up. That evening he arrives home to find his wife missing, his house ransacked, and his cat…well, let’s not mention the cat. The phone rings and the customer to whom he confessed asks him, “Is this interesting enough for you, Mr. Candle?”

What follows is a thriller that employs liberal magical realism elements to craft an argument against the rat-race gospel. Keisling describes for us a monochrome world slightly out of focus with ours, where apparitions stalk those who have lost touch with their ambition and spirit them away to become the ultimate missing person. Donovan is transported into this world in a desperate journey to find and rescue his wife, and in doing so take hold of his life and wrest it away from the reach of those that would have him flicker and fade away.

The running theme is obvious: take back control of your path in life. Don’t allow yourself to settle for a career that is second (or third, or fourth) down the list of dream jobs. Thankfully, Keisling manages to transmit this message not only without becoming preachy, but while delivering an entertaining story that will have you turning pages until the cracking finale between normality and the extraordinary. I’ll happily admit that I was genuinely inspired by this book, to the point that I set about rekindling my love of photography that had fallen by the wayside in the rush of work the very next day.

If you’re looking for a tale that will set your mind racing with possibilities, make you rethink your goals in life, and do all this while remaining an entertaining read, then A Life Transparent is for you. And if you aren’t? Well, I hope you like the colour grey…

You can buy A Life Transparent at Todd’s website. Todd is almost finished working on a sequel to A Life Transparent, you can follow his progress at his blog or his Twitter account, @todd_keisling. Full disclosure: I’ve known Todd for a few years now, having met through an art networking site.


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  1. Hmmm I’ve seen this book floating around on Teh Interwebz. It’s a solid maybe for me :P

  2. @Elena: It’s a really entertaining read, and he (and his designer wife) have obviously put a lot of time into making sure the copy is as good as it can get, because there’s not a lot of the faults that I find in other PoD/self-pub books. I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel. (:

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