Saturday, July 19, 2014

where the moon isn't

where the moon isn't is a first novel by Nathan Filer.  Not only did it win the 2013 Costa Book Award
for Best First Novel, it also won the 2013 Costa Book of the Year.  High praise indeed!

[from Wikipedia: The Costa Book Awards are a set of annual literary awards recognising English-language books by writers based in Britain and Ireland. They were inaugurated for 1971 publications and known as the Whitbread Book Awards until 2006 when Costa Coffee, a subsidiary of Whitbread, took over sponsorship.]

This is a novel about many things, but it didn't seem fractured or scattered at all.  Right from the first chapter of the book, the reader learned that  Matthew Homes' older brother, Simon, died.

"I'll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother.  His name's Simon.  I think you're going to like him.  I really do.  But in a couple of pages he'll be dead.  And he was never the same after that."

When Matthew was nine years old, his family took a vacation to Ocean Cove Holiday Park. Matthew and Simon were not allowed to go to the beach by themselves. because the path to the beach was dangerous.  Matthew decided to go to the beach anyway, and Simon followed after him. Simon had Down's Syndrome and because of that Matthew was always expected to be looking out for him.  However, this time, Matthew fell on the path, and Simon had to cope with Matthew's pain and care.  Simon carried him home, which was a very difficult thing for Simon to do.  A few nights later, Matthew again decided to go down to the beach and took Simon down to the dangerous path, only this time, Simon fell.

The story is told by Matthew ten years after the accident that killed Simon.  Matthew had been in and out of psychiatric care over the past ten years.  Sadly, schizophrenia emerged.  Matthew struggled with guilt and grief, and trying to understand what had happened that fateful night.  And then he began hearing voices, often Simon's. 

The story explores mental health in various venues: how it affects the person and the family, and how a mental health system works and fails.

But the book is mostly about a brother who loved his brother, and it questions how to grieve for someone when the pain never goes away. Good book.

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