Harm was done./ But he liked it./ It was hard to credit that harm had been done when you liked it.
This book is weird and uncomfortable. And the more you read, the more squirmy you will become. But, it’s worth it.
So you know he’s kept busy, so you don’t have to worry he might be beside you on the Tube, or following you about, or thinking about your body parts. He’s thinking only about words with the P at the start. So you do not need to worry about what else he has been thinking about. He has only thought about P words.
Anakana Schofield’s first book, Malarky, was one of my favourite books last year. This one is different; it is darker, creepier. But it is every bit as clever and bold. Fans of Malarky will feel a bit like they are back in the world of ‘Our Woman’, except, instead, you are in the world of another woman with a son who is causing her some troubles of a different sort. Martin John’s world is full of circuits and Meddlers, newspapers and flesh, Baldy Conscience and his mother’s nagging voice.
What would it be like to be the mother of a sexual deviant? How far would you go to help him? Stop him? Send him away? Or maybe tie him to a chair?
She did not like the idea she had a role in it./ You would not like the idea you had a role in it./ Did she have a role it it?/ Have you had a role in it?/ Do you have a role in this?/ These are some of the questions a mother may ask herself.
–We’ve got to get you out, mam said when she saw the state of him. If you can’t stop it, we’ve to stop it./ Could he stop it? What would he stop?/ –Stop what, he said. She will not go further. She would never give voice to that which she wished stopped.
And, then there is the girl, his victim of 20 years ago.
She remembers when she is nervous for her children. Never lets them alone. Calculates each and every situation for potential. The presentation of a smidgen of opportunity never evades her.
Schofield guides us on a tour of this man’s mind without telling us how or what to feel about it. She just lays it all out, and lets us decide for ourselves. There is confusion in the way we feel, just like there is confusion in the way Martin John feels about himself and his life, and the way his mother feels about him. Does it make us angry? Sick? Do we feel sorry for him? One thing is for sure, we hope to God we will never have to worry about it with our own children.
What was your reaction to this book?
Martin John is long-listed for the 2015 Scotiabank Giller prize this year, and I would be happy to see it make the short-list.
This review in the Globe and Mail talks about the book in more detail, and asks “Are we inside Martin John’s head, or someone else’s attempt to decipher him?“.