I don't know what it is about nonlinear storytelling, but I seem to have a weak spot for it. Give me a good book or movie that is nonlinear and well you've got me hooked. Non-linear, for those who have yet to experience it, is when the story pretty much jumps around from past to present and back with no particular order. Chuck Palahniuk is one author that can pull this off and does so with his books, remember "Fight Club"? Either the book or movie "Fight Club" was a great example of nonlinear storytelling. Other Examples include; the movie "Pulp Fiction," Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1961), Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, and, Takashi Shimizu's Japanese horror series, Ju-on, brought to America as The Grudge, is also nonlinear in its storytelling.
This book, "Choke," by Chuck Palahniuk, is yet another nonlinear story. Told in first person (as was "Fight Club") the story captures the life of Victor Mancini and his friend Denny through a few months of their lives with frequent flashbacks to the days when Victor was a child. Victor grew up while going from one foster home to another. Victor's mother was found to be unfit to raise Victor. Several times throughout his childhood his mother would kidnap him from his various foster parents. They would eventually be caught and he would again be remanded over to the government child welfare agency. This part is all told/revealed as we go through Victor's modern life where, to say the least, he's a little screwed up in the head.
Victor's mother is dying in a retirement home and before she goes he wants to know more of who he is. With the help of Dr. Paige Marshall, Victor can help his mom live by creating a baby and harvest the cells to cure his mom. When Victor visits his mom he has to pretend to be various attorneys that represented her in the past because when he says he's himself she ignores him. Through the "attorney's" Victor discovers his mom kept a diary and it is revealed who victor is, but the catch, she wrote the diary in Italian. Paige Marshall says she can read Italian and proceeds to tell Victor that he is the son of Jesus. (Very interesting story in that one...but you'll have to read it to find out how.)
Also Victor is a recovering Sexaholic and attends meetings but can never get past step 4, which is where he needs to write in a journal all his past "exploits." The problem here is twofold, one that he is still writing and has numerous events to keep track of and two that his meetings are also great places to hook up with chicks.
Victor is out to save the world by creating heroes, also a good way to make extra cash. The heroes are folks that save Victor's life. Every night Victor forces himself to choke in a restaurant and the heroes that save his life are forever heroes with a story to tell their grandchildren. Yes, he intentionally chokes on food.
Throughout the book there are many hilarious moments between Victor and his many friends and foes, so with a strange mystery to solve, although the reader doesn't realize there's a mystery until the very end of the book, and the strange flashbacks, this book is a great read.
If you're interested the book was recently made into a movie and debuted at the Sundance Film Festival (2008) with rave reviews. The movie stars Sam Rockwell as Victor. Sam Rockwell is the one that portrayed Zaphod Beeblebrox in the 2005 film "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." You can check out the trailer below.