Methods of Storytelling
Since I was a child I have always wanted to write fiction and so I have always been curious about the methods in which writers line up the timelines of their stories. For several reasons, Dinaw Mengestu’s All Our Names exhibits a story line that I find both unique and sheerly brilliant.
The first, and most obvious feature of Mengestu’s unique style is his choice to alternate narrators by the chapter. I found this to be a brilliant choice because 1) it keeps the readers attention because even if they find themselves becoming bored with a storyline they have the next chapter to look forward to, and 2) the possibilities of coordinating how those story lines will intersect is fascinating and has the potential to make a story just that much better.
One very interesting twist Mengestu adds to has story is that the main character, Isaac, is not the narrator in either of the perpendicular story lines. While at first I found this extremely frustrating (because my instinct in applying perpendicular story lines to this plot would have been to make Isaac a narrator) in by the end of the book I realized Isaac’s lack of an objective voice is one of the most important things about this novel. This is a novel partially about perceptions of an individual’s identity, and the two perspectives that are heard from as narrators are totally different, yet they are both about the same person. That is a lesson that would not have been possible to convey were Isaac a narrator.
One last method that Mengestu used that I found interesting was his strategy in informing the reader about the narrators’ lives and the roles their personal stories play in Isaac’s life and the perception you gather from their telling of their stories. By the end of the book all three of the main characters seem like totally different people then the impressions they originally gave at the beginning of the book.