Bookworm: Details! ‘Mr. Breakfast’ is a book to pick

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

“Mr. Breakfast: A Novel”

  • By Jonathan Carroll
  • c.2023, Melville House Books
  • $27.99, 272 pages

Pick a door. So many times, in life, that’s the way it is. Pick a door, make a choice and see what happens. The path may be good, and it may be challenging but you’ve made your decision and you have to stick with it. Even so, you’ll always wonder what might’ve happened if, as in the new novel, “Mr. Breakfast” by Jonathan Carroll, you made a different choice.

He had to face it: he wasn’t funny.

For years, Graham Patterson had tried to make a career out of stand-up comedy but he finally had to face facts – which is how he found himself suddenly single, in a new car that needed repairs, near a dusty tattoo parlor in North Carolina, waiting for the mechanic to finish. He hadn’t meant to get a tattoo, but, well, he did. He just did.

“Mr. Breakfast: A Novel” by Jonathan Carroll.

And man, it was beautiful, too: it was a bumblebee inside a frog inside a hawk inside a lion, like nesting Russian dolls. The colors were vivid and crisp and getting it hurt but not too much. As he pulled away from the little town, he figured the tattoo was a good souvenir.

But then weird things started happening. He saw a guy at a rest-stop who looked just like him; the guy had Graham’s dream truck, and the contents inside the cab were identical to what was in Graham’s car. The guy was talking on his cell phone about being on-stage, totally killing it, and the complete weirdness sent Graham right back to North Carolina, to the tattoo parlor, and the tattoo artist who inked him.

And that was when Graham Patterson learned that he had a choice.

The tattoo, the artist explained, was ancient and imbued with powers. Whoever had it on their body could visit other life possibilities and try them out, but they could only stay in one life. Graham could keep the life he had, or he could take Graham 2’s life, or Graham 3’s. And the deal was only good for a limited time ...

Reading “Mr. Breakfast” is like being in a windstorm with butterflies.

Each flutter of this storyline alights gently, but not for long before it’s swept away, replaced by a new wisp of promise and you’re not exactly sure what just happened or if it’ll come back. It’s fragile, brilliant, ethereal, and it flies over your head sometimes.

“Mr. Breakfast: A Novel” author Jonathan Carroll.

It’s easy to want to grab at it. Author Jonathan Carroll’s tale is here, there, and everywhere at once and it’s natural to need sense of it right away, but don’t try too hard. Half the enjoyment in reading this novel lies in the imagery and the details of the story, because there is no fluff in this tale. The other half lies in the what-if dawning that we all have choices to make.

Pay attention, too, because you won’t miss the humor inside this book, or the longing, or the real beauty of the prose. Pay attention, and you’ll know that “Mr. Breakfast” is a book to pick.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at marconews.com.