Every once in a while, I read a book and wonder how I will review it. I ask myself some questions and hope that I’ll find the answers to them. Do I like the book? What is it about? What parts of the book do I want to highlight to support my thoughts?
With this book, I wasn’t entirely sure about what I needed to talk about. I enjoyed the book. I liked how Caleb talked about the game; I think it is excellent. However, I still wasn’t sure how I would explain my thoughts.
Caleb walks the reader through the game and provides some background for the development of the different stories within the greater narrative. He also talks about the literary inspirations for the game’s narrative structure. If you haven’t played What Remains of Edith Fitch, this book might convince you to try it.
While I’m struggling to think of the right things to write about, let’s start with the major parts of the game. Then, we can move into some of the parts of the book that I think are the best.
The House, Family, and Curse
The game is an interactive story about the Finch family. This family has a troubled past, which has been attributed to a curse. It isn’t explained how the family was cursed or how the curse could be lifted aside from the family dying off.
The Finch family tried to escape the curse by moving from Norway to the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. However, they also tried to bring their ancestorial home with them. This house sunk into the sea and killed Odin Finch. The player explores the new house in the game. The Finch Family used bricks from the old house, transferring the curse to the new home. At least, that is what we’re led to believe.
Caleb talks about the opening of the game and the slow walk to the Finch house. This leads to the reveal that the player’s character is pregnant. I wonder how many players picked this up on their first playthrough?
While I was thinking about other things, Caleb explained what this means for the narrative. Edith is continuing the curse. Assuming that it is real, she could’ve let the curse die with her. This leads to Caleb speculating on Edith’s pregnancy.
Christopher Finch, Edith’s child, is pointed to as being the hero of the story. At least, that is how Caleb sees it. I don’t think there is a hero to this story. It depends on how you view the actions of the characters.
He spends some time exploring this. I don’t think he is wrong about it because of how ambiguous the story is. All we’re sure of is that the Finch family is either very unlucky or they’ve been cursed. We don’t know if the curse is real or if the belief in it has caused it to become real.
Some family members believe in the curse, while others fight against the belief. Some find evidence of the curse’s existence in the deaths of the members of the Finch family, and others deny this. With this in mind, let’s talk about Dawn and Edie.
Dawn vs Edie
Caleb brings up the conflict between Dawn, Edith’s Mother, and Edie, Edith’s great-grandmother. This conflict is presented to us as science vs. myth or fantasy. Dawn represents science and facts, while Edie is myth and fantasy.
Edie fully embraces the idea of the curse and tries to impose the reality of it on the other members of the Finch family. If you needed to point the finger at a villain, it would be Edie. She does several things that put her family in harm’s way, or she does things to feed into the idea of the curse.
From reading this book, it sounds like Edie is using the curse to rationalize the death. There was nothing she could do differently because of the curse. With some of the deaths, it feels like Edie is the cause of them. She could’ve done something but chose not to act.
Not every death could be attributed to Edie. However, her inaction caused a few of them. Her decision to keep the rooms of dead family members as shrines was odd but seemed like a way to deal with the deaths.
Dawn initially rejects the curse but then gives Edith the keys to the family home. Caleb explains that Dawn’s room was filled with textbooks. She was a teacher and dealt with facts. She also escaped the home and tried to get Edith away from Edie’s influence.
Then she gives her the key to the home. It is a strange thing to do for someone who has a plan to escape from the house and tries to keep it a secret. She also sealed many of the rooms to keep people out of them.
It is one of the things that I found interesting about this story. There are so many contradictions to the actions of the characters. Caleb sometimes points this out and lets the reader make their own conclusions.
Dawn and Edie’s deaths are discussed near the end of the book. Caleb does an excellent job of discussing each of the Finch family deaths. With these two, he gives fewer options for their cause of death. That is because they have the least suspicious deaths. The curse didn’t seem to impact them beyond being a present fear.
Is the Curse Real, or Is it Made Real?
We don’t get an answer to this question, but not for a lack of trying on Caleb’s part. He explains that the story is intentionally ambiguous. Even his interviews with the development team don’t shed much light on the answers that players want.
Most people like puzzles. We like solving a puzzle and finding something. When presented with questions, we want to have answers. When we don’t get an answer, we create something that makes sense.
Video games are no different. The games that tell a story offer players a chance to fill in the blanks that the developers leave, intentionally or unintentionally. It is one of the things that I love about video games.
I think the curse was made real by the Finch Family’s belief. Every death was evidence of the curse. Edie played a role in creating the idea of the curse and the presence of monsters that would sometimes kill family members.
Caleb points out something interesting when he goes over the deaths of the family members. There are several possible explanations for the deaths that can all be true. Particularly when talking about the deaths early on that have been made more fantastical.
For example, Molly turns into a series of animals before she dies. It is possible that a tentacle monster ate her, or she was poisoned by the berries she ate. Both of those explanations are possible, especially in the world of video games. The curse could’ve manifested as a tentacle monster, even if that wouldn’t make sense in the real world.
If the curse is real or not, it doesn’t change the fact that the members of the Finch Family keep dying. The game ends with Christopher Finch. He is the last living member of the family that we know about.
Letters to Christopher
This was the book’s most confusing, creative, and fascinating part. There are five of these in the book, and part of me wonders how many others there could be. How many other letters did Caleb write before he settled on these five?
These letters are from the author to Christopher Finch, the last surviving member of the Finch family from the game. He is writing to an NPC. This isn’t something new, as other people have probably done something similar, but it is a creative way to do it.
Think of your favorite game, book, or television show. You probably have asked yourself a few questions after “finishing” it for the first time. I’m sure there will be someone who says, “I don’t do that!” because, of course, there will be someone who says that.
However, if you look at any discussion form for a piece of media, you’ll find people who do something similar to what Caleb does with these letters. I didn’t know what he was doing when I started reading them. It had been a while since I played What Remains of Edith Finch, and I didn’t remember Christopher. It quickly became apparent to me what Caleb was doing.
The last letter to Christopher closes out the book. It is the one that struck a chord with me. Maybe it was due to it being the last part of the book, but what Caleb says in it is fascinating. It asked some of the questions that I hadn’t thought of.
In this last letter, Caleb gives the reader a few things to consider by asking Christopher some questions. Specifically, he asks Christopher if he is dead yet. He also asks where we go from here. These are the same questions that many gamers ask about their favorite games.
I’ve done similar things myself. When I reflect on a series of games, especially if it was unfinished or left open to interpretation. Sometimes, there is a game that spans a significant amount of time. I often wonder what happened between the games, especially when the game only briefly touches on that time when introducing the plot of the next game.
While reading the letters, we’re also given some personal stories from Caleb. These tie into the themes he wants to explore in the book, and this is a creative way to introduce them.
This final letter ends the book. It is an excellent way to do this, especially with a game with an ending open to interpretation and speculation. You don’t know if the curse was real or If Christopher got married and had children. It is simply superb.
I’m glad I read this book. What Remains of Edith Finch is a game I don’t remember much about. It is one of the games that is open to interpretation. It also brought a lot to the Walking Simulator genre, even if I don’t like the name of the genre.
It tells you a story and leaves things to the player to decide if a curse causes the deaths in this family. In the end, the cause of the deaths doesn’t change much. Those characters are still dead, and all that is left for the player is to decide if something supernatural is happening.
Caleb makes some great points about what is going on in the game. He also does an excellent job incorporating the developer’s and voice actor’s thoughts. These add a lot of insight to the game’s story. It is still up to the player and the reader to conclude.
While I didn’t know how to talk about this book, I think I got everything I wanted into this post. There are things I missed or parts of the book that I considered more important than others. Much like the game, people will probably take different things from this book than I did.
Suddenly I Was a Shark! is a book that I highly recommend. Caleb does a spectacular job of describing what is going on in the game, what it means, and speculating on what is going on. I walked away from this book, wanting to know more about the game.