Thursday, March 15, 2012
Book Review: "Untouchable" by Scott O'Connor
It takes a talented writer to keep you reading a book that gets bleaker and bleaker, but Scott O'Connor definitely fits that bill. Untouchable is, for the most part, a book in which the situations the main characters find themselves are getting increasingly hopeless, and at some point they need to decide whether it's worth fighting at all.
It's the fall of 1999, nearly a year since Lucy Darby's sudden death. Her husband, David, a crime scene clean-up technician, immerses himself in helping others purge any traces of their loved ones' deaths, while he is unable to do the same in his own life. Their son, 11-year-old Whitley (known as The Kid), has not spoken for a year, communicating instead via a series of notebooks in which he shares his thoughts. The Kid is treated horribly by his classmates, so much so that he begins to believe his unworthy and horrible, and starts blaming himself for Lucy's death, wondering if she actually died, or simply disappeared because she, too, was disgusted with him. And as the atmosphere around The Kid grows even more charged and potentially dangerous, David is starting to lose his own grip on reality, which also could have potentially harmful effects. All of this plays out against the backdrop of a country riveted by the uncertain fears of the coming millennium and the worries of what Y2K could bring.
Scott O'Connor has created some tremendously vivid, heartbreakingly poignant characters, in David and The Kid, as well one of David's coworkers and one of The Kid's classmates. But so much of this book is so bleak, I worried what would happen to characters in which I had invested so much emotion. This is a well-written book that was hard to love, because I just wanted to shake the characters and those around them, to make them aware of all that was going on. But it truly is a testament to O'Connor's excellent writing ability that you want to keep on reading a book that disturbs you so much.