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More stories from Alyssa Anderson

Getting Weird
December 13, 2018

Anderson reviews her absolute favorite book of all time

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By the end of the first sentence, I knew I had found the one. While I generally remain unconvinced that love at first sight exists at all, I fell madly in love with this book as soon as I laid my eyes on its cover.

Kurt Vonnegut’s 1961 novel “Mother Night” tells the story of Howard W. Campbell, Jr., an American traitor accused of Nazi affiliation and crimes against humanity during World War II. As Campbell awaits his trial in Israel, the truth unfolds.

Campbell is innocent.

In a series of gut-wrenching flashbacks, Campbell’s true identity is revealed. Though the world believes him to be no better than Adolf Eichmann, it turns out that Campbell is somewhat of an American hero.

Or is he?

After being recruited by the CIA, Campbell was forced to walk alongside Hitler and disguise himself as an undying supporter of the Nazi regime.

Campbell played witness to the atrocities of the Holocaust and was responsible for the deliberate spread of harmful Nazi propaganda throughout Germany and its occupied territories. But it was all for the greater good, or was it?

With his trademark black humor and cynical philosophy, Vonnegut manages to blur the line between hero and villain. “Mother Night” delves deep into the depths of human morality, conjuring up question after question, leaving readers deeply unsettled, yet deeply satisfied.

This novel ruined my life in the best way possible. With his unpredictable twists and turns, Vonnegut had me staying up until the wee hours of the morning, utterly invested in Campbell’s story and literally sweating from stress.

Fifteen-year-old me was awestruck.

The plot of this novel is pretty far out there but Vonnegut’s prose had me questioning my own reality. Somehow, Vonnegut never fails to push me deep into an existential crisis.

As I have said before and will say again, the best books to read are the ones that make you think. This one blew my mind. The second I finished the last word, I was running out the door to the library. Without shame, I frantically hunted down every Vonnegut book I could find.
This ultimately resulted in several months of Vonnegut benders and one Vonnegut-inspired tattoo (sorry, Mom).

I was addicted. To this day, I remain convinced that Kurt Vonnegut and I are kindred spirits. Vonnegut speaks to me on a deep level; he gets me. I would not have gotten through the tumultuousness of high school without my homeboy Kurt.

If you haven’t read any of Vonnegut’s work, or have no idea who in the world I am talking about, I strongly urge you to check him out. Each and every one of his novels and short stories are an adventure.

Although choosing a favorite Vonnegut novel is basically equivalent to a mother choosing her favorite child, I will stand my ground and advertise that “Mother Night” is not only the best Vonnegut novel but quite possibly the best novel of all time.

If you only read one book throughout your entire life, this is the one to choose. “Mother Night” is a wild ride, a scary ride, but a ride worth taking.

With that, I will leave you with a chilling quote from the best piece of literature ever written:
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

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