Written by Jan Kline on May 29, 2009

Lowboy, part II

tunnel450px.jpgJust a short review on this one, since I wrote about it when it arrived last month. This book lived up to the hype, in my opinion. I only wish I’d had time to read it without interruption, so I could have gotten into the rhythm of Wray’s cutting between Will, the schizophrenic teenage mental hospital escapee, and the missing persons detective trying (with Will’s mother in tow) to find him before something bad happens. Will’s character is startlingly real; read a passage where he starts out lucid and veers off into paranoia, and you’re probably as close to being inside a schizophrenic’s thought processes as you care to go, maybe closer:

As soon as his eyes came open he regretted it. The objects around him flickered for an instant before coming clear, as though he’d caught them by surprise, and their outlines began to twitch and run together. Oh no, he thought. The argon lights were stuttering like pigeons There was some kind of intelligence behind them. He tried to convince himself that what he saw made no difference, that it was none of his business, but it was too late to convince himself of anything. He clutched at the bench, breathing in little sucks and forced himself to look things in the eye. The bench was smooth, the wall was bright, the skeletons were as dull and dead as ever. Everything was as it should have been, inanimate and still. Even the people waiting for the train seemed perfectly assembled and composed; but that was wrong again. It was as though he’d caught a glimpse behind the curtain in a theater, behind the canvas backdrop and the props, and though the play was a good one he couldn’t forget about the ropes and pulleys. You should have expected this to happen, he said to himself. You did expect it. But the truth was that he hadn’t expected it so soon, not yet, and he felt hollow and incapable and sick.

A cigarette wrapper skittered up the platform, dancing past the bench coquettishly: a bashful totem. A harbinger. He pressed his face against his legs and panted.

The supporting characters are complex and mostly sympathetic. Ali Lateef  is just the sort of detective you’d want helping you, even when he’s unsuccessful. We can understand teenage Emily’s fascination with Will, and how she might get pulled in, despite his troubled history. Will’s mother, Violet, is more enigmatic — to say more would give away too much of the plot.

tunnel photo: http://secondavenuesagas.com/

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