Light Boxes is a peculiar book. By all accounts it can be easily misidentified as a children’s book, given its fanciful illustrated cover as well as overly short chapters, containing an often poetic yet simplified tone. Careful reading suggests otherwise, for it better resembles the cold, lonely and desperate circumstances found by those with firsthand knowledge of the cruelest month, February. Indeed, for well within the work the reader is confronted with death by winter; kidnappings, hangings, throats stuffed full of snow and death by icy lichen. Quite unsettling, really, for the novella symbolizes not only with harshness of winter and death, but also the dissolution it causes, among families and community.
Jones well portrays the mystery, tenderness and frailty of a family’s desperation to escape an incessant cloud-filled sky in favor of a warm blue, most suited to the flight of their balloons. While central character Thaddeus is somewhat one-dimensional in his love for his daughter, Jones introduces several interesting characters to confuse the reader as to whether there is even a villain in this story. The shadowy Solution, a conglomerate of those willing to aid in the destruction of February, are always on the periphery and equally cryptic as the shaggy February itself. The psychology of humanity is the resonating beacon here; Jones writes of humans who are quick to act, but of those above who are too slow to be forced into their own movement. The stagnation of winter, February, affects everyone.
Jones has written a very ethereal, cryptic and melancholy novella in Light Boxes. The surrealism is not always fully realized when addressing the development of the characters, especially being such a brief work, but it is artfully crafted and extremely thoughtful.