Firmin by Sam Savage is an odd little book, almost small enough to be called a novella. In it, Firmin is the runt of a litter of rats born into the basement of a bookstore on a bed of shredded books. Through eating the pages under him to quell his rumbling stomach, he acquires the ability to read and philosophize with the best of humanity, though he still finds it incredibly difficult to communicate with us.
The novel follows Firmin from the time of his birth through to his death, which was a remarkably long time for a rat in Scollay Square, Boston. He spends his days watching the square slowly crumble from the bookshop and his evenings reading, foraging and watching his Lovelies in the pornographic movies at the movie theater down the street.
It was an engaging novel, though by the end you are unsure of how much is him just making up stories and what is actually happening. The writing is crisp and clean, and well placed in Firmin’s point of view. I love the phrenology references that Firmin relies upon to judge human behavior, even if that is a crackpot science. It seems to work well for the rat.
Overall, this is a story about a person who just fails to fit in. Anyone can identify with Firmin and his struggle to communicate with and socialize with the intellectual creature, man. Especially those of us who were labeled a book worm in elementary school. There was the constant companionship of the books, but you really just wanted to be asked to the cool kid’s birthday party. Firmin evokes all of those emotions and more.