Book Review – “They Shall Know Our Velocity”

“Everything within takes place after Jack died and before my mom and I drowned in a burning ferry in the cool tannin-tinted Guaviare River, in East Central Colombia, with forty-two locals we hadn’t yet met.”

They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but that’s not so with the book “You Shall Know Our Velocity” by Dave Eggers.  The first page literally is on the front cover, which isn’t a half bad idea, since I bought the book based on the fact that I read that first page and wanted to keep reading.

YSKOV is about a guy named Will and his friend Hand.  Their friend Jack was recently killed.  And Will inherits a bunch of money he doesn’t even want – it’s not that he has a lot of money.  He’s pretty much broke.  But he doesn’t want a lot of money.  So Will and Hand plan a trip around the world, using the money he’s recently inherited, and whatever money they don’t need for the trip, they’re going to give away to complete strangers.  Here’s an excerpt:

“(The airline tickets) cost $3,000 each, a number out of the reach of people like us under normal circumstances, in rational times, but I had gotten some money in a windfall kind of way, and had been both grateful and constantly confused by it.  And now I would get rid of it, or most of it, and believed purging would provide clarity, and that doing this in a quick global flurry would make it – I actually don’t know why we combined these two ideas . . .”

“This will be good,” said Hand.

“It will,” I said.

“How much are we getting rid of again?”

“I think $38,000.”

“Is that including the tickets?”


“So we’re actually giving away, what – $32,000?

“Something like that,” I said.

“How are you going to bring it? Cash?”
“Traveler’s checks.”

“And then we give it to who?”

“I don’t know yet.  I think it’ll be obvious when we get there.”

I’ll warn you – if you don’t like the f-word appearing in print in the books you read, this isn’t the book for you.  But I really enjoyed following these two guys around the world, watching them deal with this dilemma of ridding themselves of $32,000.  In traveler’s checks.  And the way they are grieving over the recent death of their friend Jack is poignant and insightful.

I’m also fascinated with the author, Dave Eggers.  He brought us “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” the story of how he took care of his younger brother after their parents died.  And recently he wrote a book in my top ten, “What is the What,” the story of the boy-soldiers in the Sudan. 

If you want to read something a little different, pretty quirky, and very raw, “You Shall Know Our Velocity” might just be your next read.

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