This is an insightful novel, one that tells the story of a young girl’s rape and the way the boy from across the street wanted to help, because he loved her.
I really didn’t know quite what to expect from the synopsis of this one, it wasn’t what I got which was a far more thoughtful and measured piece of writing than the mystery story that was promised, but do you know what, it didn’t really matter who did what because this was about an act that changed everyone’s perceptions of Piney Creek Road in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And through it all Lindy, who had been raped, and the teenage boy across the road finished the process of growing up with the weight of the unsolved crime hanging over their heads.
In many ways this is a ‘coming of age’ novel with a mystery thrown in a book where the memories of our narrator roll off each and every page, written from a time in the future and looking back at the events that shaped his life, and the girl that he loved. The neighbourhood is full of characters including an adopted former foster-child who was wild and got expelled from Perkins High, the local school, the arty girl Julie and the other temporary foster children who joined the gang making beds out of moss and then disappeared almost unnoticed.
Starting in the late 80s this is a book looking back through time to the boy our narrator was and how that shaped the man he became. There is a strong theme of memories; what we remember and what we repress, how we use some memories to our advantage and some to our detriment. Our narrator has fond memories of being a young child and more diffident ones as he begins to grow up and falls in love with the unattainable Lindy. The school scenes in particular will ring true to anyone who attended around this period with a particularly poignant episode of watching the Challenger disaster in January 1986, after months of project work on space the pupils gathered to watch… The allegiances formed during those years, the things that people do to be popular, the way that we interact with our parents, I’m sure will resonate on a level with most readers, it certainly made me reflect on comparable incidents.
This was a touching book, one that brought a tear to my eye more than once, and I’m a tough cookie and not prone to such behaviour as a rule. The affection I felt for the narrator was immense despite knowing that he was one of the four suspects in Lindy’s rape. No that isn’t a spoiler, you get the information on the very first page. And so as I read I wondered, could it be true? This added an unsettling quality to my read where sympathy coincided with suspicion.
So back in the first paragraph I said I didn’t know what to expect, at the end I know that this is one of those books that won’t be forgotten. Not just because it is quite different to my normal reads, far more reflective and with far less action but because it was a book that touched my heart, made me reflect and in short is an outstanding debut.
I’d like to thank the publishers Penguin Books UK who kindly allowed me a chance to read a copy of this book ahead of publication on 2 July 2015.