Review of Love the World or Get Killed Trying by Alvina Chamberland

Love the World or Get Killed Trying cover
Love the World or Get Killed Trying
Alvina Chamberland
Noemi Press, 2024, 274 pages

Reviewed by Sarah Parsons

Towards the middle of Alvina Chamberland’s autofiction novel Love the World or Get Killed Trying, the narrator takes the reader on a journey through a fever-induced fantasy of a life with footballer Ronaldo Nazário, in which she imagines herself “Queen Yoko Ono–Feminist Havoc-Wreaker Of The Football World!” By this point, the reader is well-acquainted with Chamberland’s uniquely humorous voice, which often takes the text into delightful surrealist territory. Love the World, Chamberland’s English-language debut, is a confessional story of one woman’s journey through Iceland, continental Europe, and California (sometimes in the moment, sometimes through memory). If Love the World is an adventure novel, then the reader serves as a sidekick of sorts. It often feels as though there is a dialogue taking place between reader and narrator, with Alvina tending the conversation, not unlike daily updates to a personal blog.

The novel buoys between hugely external moments in packed gay bars and Icelandic fjords, as well as more internal moments, reflecting on memory and life within the imagination. We are guided by Alvina’s inner monologue, which swings from dark humor to unexpected glee. Layered within the humor is a sense of solemnity; this is a book about survival, too, and the ongoing struggle to survive as a transgender woman. The reader experiences the world through Alvina’s eyes, as she encounters men who view her as an object of conditional desire all while she searches for a deeper, kinder love. Alvina meditates often on the subject of her own death: when it might come and how. She lives in a state of precarity, not by her own making, but by that of a patriarchal and transphobic culture. Alvina is a woman with a thirst for life–ever the intrepid traveler, she runs across the Icelandic countryside, bathes under waterfalls, and dreams up futures for herself with strangers. Yet, she has experienced great sorrow and pain. “Why,” she asks the reader, “does a male Buddhist monk write a book titled In Love With the World while a trans woman names her novel Love the World or Get Killed Trying?” This is the question at the heart of the novel.

Readers who enjoy journeys of self-discovery and adventure will find themselves drawn into the wonderful world of Alvina Chamberland. As the novel unfolds, its depth becomes apparent, and the reader will likely find themselves growing fond of the narrator and her idiosyncratic voice. This novel spans countries, oceans, and years of Alvina’s life. It is an ambitious piece of literature that I imagine will leave readers with the same burning sense of desire for existence that Alvina lives by. As Chamberland writes, “I have decided to cast my vote for a life governed by the principle that everything is meaningful.” This book affords a great deal of care to the full range of moments in a day and a life.

Sarah Parsons is a Sinister Wisdom intern and writer based in Oregon whose work can be found online in Paperbark Magazine.

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