|Laura Wilson: My Best Friend|
Press (Hardcover), ISBN 0385335792
Gerald, a sixty-something bachelor whose human contact consists mainly of short exchanges with his landlady, is a deeply troubled man with many odd compulsions and habits. He attends musicals almost religiously, priding himself on his record of 215 performances of Starlight Express.
Through his narrations and his childhood journal entries, Gerald chronicles a life filled with disappointment, neglect and hurt. Gerald's twin brother died at birth. Throughout his youth, his mother mourns the loss of Gerald's brother but ignores Gerald. Then Gerald's sister falls victim to murder. Her death and his parents' subsequent divorce deeply affect the course of Gerald's life.
Jo, a single mother who works with Gerald finds him creepy at best. Disturbed by his compulsions and perfectionism, she dislikes having to work directly across from him all day. Jo's daughter, Meg, begins to notice that an older man follows her as she walks between home and friends' houses. Jo's horror at this news grows when her daughter describes her stalker; he sounds alarmingly similar to Gerald. When Meg and Gerald disappear at the same time, everyone assumes the worst. Beating herself up for paying too much attention to her new boyfriend and not enough to her daughter, Jo tries desperately not to panic.
Tilly, Gerald's elderly, wheelchair-bound aunt, rounds out the trio of narrators. In her nursing home, she reminisces of her days on England's stages as part of traveling theater groups. Through Tilly's eyes the events of the 1940s unfold, and we see the cruelty of her sister (and Gerald's mother), the famous children's author, M.M. Haldane. Haldane's self-absorption, bitterness and over-developed sense of drama seem to be the cause of Gerald's poor social skills. Excerpts of Haldane's children's books featuring Tom Tyler, boy detective, provide a stark contrast to the hateful way in which she treats both Vera and Gerald.
The reader must truly play detective while reading this book, sorting out the facts from the opinions and attitudes of narrators. With no objectivity in sight, one finds their opinions of characters changing as each narrator takes their turn at the helm. The mysteries of Vera's death and Meg's disappearance -- though separated by a span of fifty years -- hold surprising similarities. Wilson sets the modern day story against the backdrop of the fiftieth anniversary of VE Day, a time which many of the characters would rather not remember, but must dredge up as current events unfold.
Ceridwen S. Lewin
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