The story begins with the disappearance of the precocious child detective Kate Meaney, but soon settles on the routine lives of several young adults tied in one way or another to Kate. There is the socially-awkward security guard Kurt, the passive shopkeeper Adrian, and Adrian's sister, Lisa, who, although seemingly intelligent, appears unable to walk away from either her indifferent boyfriend Ed or her lackluster job as assistant manager in a music store. Speaking of music, their situations call to mind the lyrics from an old Bob Dylan song (Chimes of Freedom):
"Tollin' for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones and worse And for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe …"
The sadness of their day-to-day lives is summarized by Lisa when she talks about the pandas: "they spend their lives looking for leaves and bamboo to eat, but eating the stuff does them no good, they can't digest it, so they have no energy. They have to lie down and rest all the time. They spend their whole lives in this pointless pursuit that just saps them." And then there's Kurt who meets his future wife Nancy at a concert for two put on by a busker who plays at a plodding pace on the street but rips through Django Rhinehart solos in the club – what's that all about? Nancy falls out of love with Kurt but they don't talk about it. Before they can, Nancy is killed in an auto accident. Finally, there's Ian the clerk in the music store who torments poor old Mr. Wake by promising that his order for Mozart's Horn Concertos Nos. 1-4 on cassette tape will arrive any day now although he knows it's been discontinued. Lisa finally transfers the CD to tape to put Mr. Wake out of his misery. You get the picture – this is pretty depressing stuff. Although Kate has been lost physically, she is beyond this daily grind. The rest of these people are walking zombies – lost emotionally. As author O'Flynn says, they are "stuck in dead end jobs or relationships wondering how they got there."
It's not all bad however. For one thing, the mystery of Kate's disappearance is solved by the end of the book, and Kurt and Lisa manage to find each another. Not surprisingly, events of the past connect the characters in meaningful ways that become apparent as the story unfolds. Also, there's the case of Teresa, a classmate of Kate's from an abusive family, whom Kate manages to launch on a trajectory of success. So, O'Flynn can express hope and optimism: "What I most wanted to convey was the confidence and fidelity of friends. While the characters may have little or no belief in themselves, it is the faith of their friends that provides their salvation."
All in all, a very well done and entertaining little book despite the depressing workaday lives of the characters. Definitely worth reading.
I was invited to join Lunch by one of the developers, who apparently read some reviews I posted on Library Thing. My interests are books, music, and movies. I enjoy both classical and contemporary fiction, … more
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