The Intuitionist is a strange story about Lila Mae Watson, an inspector with the Department of Elevator Inspectors. Unlike most inspectors she is in the Intuitionist camp, which means that she can discover any problems with an elevator simply by riding it. This unorthodox method and her gender and race (black) make her standout in a department full of good ol’ boys. Unfortunately for Lila Mae, her differences work to her disadvantage when an elevator that she has just recently inspected goes into free fall. Now she must investigate the accident, in order to clear her name, and its ties to the upcoming election for head of the Department of Elevator Inspectors.
Obviously Colson Whitehead has come up with an original idea. Who would think to write a novel about elevator inspectors? What makes it even more unique is the seriousness with which he writes the story. It is written very matter-of-factly, as if the Department of Elevator Inspectors is commonly known to exist in every city.
Unfortunately the book just didn’t work for me. It was mildly entertaining, there is nothing really wrong with it, it just didn’t stand out to me. I expected a story this unique to really grab me, show me some genius. But it just never did. There is nothing wrong with Whitehead’s prose, maybe with a different plot I’d be more impressed.
The Intuitionist runs along, not outstanding, but not boring, just there. Its greatest weakness is that after finishing it I still feel like I had not really read it. It ran through me like water.