This touching story starts off with the mysterious hit and run of Frank’s predecessor, Phil. Even though this makes the reader think the book is a mystery/thriller, the novel really focuses on loss in Frank’s life rather than the specifics of Phil’s death.
Frank’s late father, an architect, designed numerous buildings in Birmingham (where the novel is set) and Frank finds himself having to deal with the fact that many of these post-war structures are being demolished.
As he reports the endless local news stories (including the hard-hitting story of a gym for overweight dogs), Frank struggles to make sense of the stories that arise of those that die alone in the city. Frank struggles to make sense of these absences and becomes a fixture at the funerals for those who pass with no next-of-kin.
I’m really not sure what to think about this book. It’s really beautifully written, and my heart aches with Frank as he watches the city demolish his father’s buildings. The story, however, is not quite enough to keep me interested. It took me several weeks to finish this book. I would see it sitting on my nightstand, and would have to ask myself if I really felt up to it. The story moves slowly, which seems to mirror Frank’s life or his mind or something profound, but really it just made me tired. I could only read one or two chapters at a time.
As a whole, I enjoyed Frank’s story and his journey, but all-in-all the book is too slow and sometimes left me just feeling depressed. O’Flynn is definitely a writer who can pull your emotions into the book, making you feel as the character feels. Her first novel, What Was Lost, has terrific reviews, but with this as an introduction to her writing, I don’t think I’ll be checking it out.