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Dreams of Delphine from the dragon statue | The Triangle

Dreams of Delphine from the dragon statue

Last week, Mario’s statue was accompanied by a peculiar stand lined with free hardcover copies of Richard Shapero’s books. My curiosity paved the way as I was drawn to the green and orange hues on the cover of “Dreams of Delphine,” and I picked it up along with another before walking to my next class. Today, I finally took the time to read the novel, but before we dive into my opinions on the book, who exactly is Richard Shapero?

Shapero is a venture capitalist who founded TooFar Media in the early 2000s, a multimedia production company for new modes of narration. He is a self-published author of ten novels, with his latest works being my two picks: “The Slide That Buried Rightful” and “Dreams of Delphine.” Contrary to his impressive accomplishments, Shapero’s book reviews are quite low, with most scoring two out of five stars on Goodreads.

Given this, I was pretty skeptical about the contents of the book, and once I started reading, a confusing and unexpectedly fast-paced first chapter solidified my doubts. The novel follows a twin named Presden as he loses his sister, Delphine, at the tender age of eight and has to confront his survivor’s guilt through traverses of time and dreams. It takes only one page for the setting to shift from a tale of childhood wonder to the journey of an adult as he “[returns] now to a freedom that had once been his” (79), that freedom stemming from dreaming of his dead sister while he neglects his pregnant wife (whoa).

Initially, the story develops far too quickly for my liking. Suddenly jumping into Presden’s adulthood skips over his early years of trauma, which is largely glossed over by the end of the first chapter. This robs readers of the chance to truly understand and empathize with his character and thus of a strong foundation. Even in later chapters, Presden hops between the roles of a one-dimensional husband and a deeply wounded brother, missing the progressions filling the gap. One reader on Goodreads states that the novel “seemed more like an unfinished outline for a story, rather than the final product,” and I couldn’t agree more. Shapero had a solid idea going, but it lacks much of the character development an intense plot needs. Though the writing is vivid, the dialogue is plain, and it seems like he devoted most of his creativity to the imagery.

Despite all this, I found myself still reading. I wanted to dive more into the parallels between Presden’s dreams and reality, and the novel made attempts to follow through. Yet there were some strange details that I just could notoverlook. Other opinions on Shapero’s books claim that much of his writing is unnecessarily sexual, and I agree that parts of the book were too sexualized.

In a couple scenes, Presden and Delphine are oddly intimate; you can find him touching her lips and taking in the possibility that he married Merle because she evokes memories of Delphine. At some point, it simply cannot be brushed off as an inexplicable connection between twins, especially since the relationship remains underdeveloped. 

The dynamic between Presden and Merle is also disconcerting. Merle is apparently a confident and lively woman, but Shapero fails to back that up. In fact, Merle seems to spend much of her energy trying to be a viable replacement for Presden’s dead sister (ironically not to his delight).At one point, in the middle of making out, she kisses his scar from when Delphine died “to honor his sister’s memory and the love he holds so close to his heart” (30). Yeah, that is a bit unsettling.

Once I’d finished the novel, I could only muster one thing: “meh.” The more the plot drew me in, the more underwhelming the overall story became, not to mention the weird undertones. As for the main question: Would I recommend the book to others? Frankly, I believe time could be better spent with a more well-developed book, but it is not among my worst reads. If you are looking for a short story just to pass some time, I say give it a go (and keep your expectations low).