Patrick Warner was born and raised in Claremorris, Co. Mayo, Ireland. He moved to Newfoundland in 1980 in search of better weather and economic prosperity. Bitterly disappointed on both counts, he turned to writing, penning four critically acclaimed poetry collections and a novel, double talk. One hit Wonders is his second novel.
When I was done reading One Hit Wonders, I went straight to my library’s website to see if they had double talk, his first novel, and was disappointed that they didn’t. One Hit Wonders was such a unique reading experience that I wanted more.
I knew I was in for a whirlwind read when I read the first paragraph of the book. Then I read it again to make sure I got the whole thing. Then I read it a third time just for fun.
Were she to walk in the room even now and regard me with that quizzical tilt of her head, her grin unwavering as she unwinds her long wool scarf and unfastens the button at her throat, her amber eyes narrowing, my image warming in the dark mirrors of her pupils, in an expression that says I am happy to see you even when I am not happy to see you, because it is myself that I am unhappy with most of the time, but that unhappiness dims the second that I see you, because it is halved or shared, because I am understood, because we are together, because together we are a conspiracy, because what we are is a secret, because we are tethered in our togetherness and whatever fray or tension arises from our separation is instantly repaired when we see one another again, which is why, even now, were she to walk into the room, I would run to her, ignore the belligerent chorus of voices in my head, the opinions of all those who told me and would tell me still that she was and is unworthy, unworthy in death as she was in life.
Warner’s writing is sharp, witty, challenging, and poetic. When I requested this book, I was expecting a fun mystery-type Newfoundland romp. What I got was even better; a genre-bending literary mystery novel that challenged me and made me think. I couldn’t let my mind wander while reading this book, I had to pay attention to every word. I never knew where it was going to go next. And the themes of love and empathy that run through the story are thought-provoking without being overbearing.
The plot? Lila is dead and Freddy, Lila’s “flash-in-the-pan literary husband”, is trying to figure out how it happened. Was it Lila’s newest ‘hobby’, Al, the creepy “washed-up golf pro with a cocaine habit”? Was it one of Al’s “small-time thugs”, Gosse or Snuffy? Was it Freddy, himself, in a rage over Lila’s secrets? Or did Lila do herself in when she realized what a mess she’d gotten herself into?
The way in which Freddy tries to figure this all out is unique, and at times can be a little confusing (but totally worth it). Kerry at Pickle Me This explains it well, so I will just borrow her words:
What makes this book different from the others though is Freddy’s unabashed complicity in its construction; it’s his second novel all along. But not a memoir—this is fiction. He’s creating conversations he never heard, imagining places he never went, and interactions he was never a part of in order to have the whole story make sense. Which makes us wonder if he’s complicit in other ways. Is there a truth to be uncovered at the bottom of all of this? And isn’t that we ask such a thing of fiction kind of an amazing thing?
There is never a dull moment in this book. There may be moments of confusion, and moments of discomfort, but never a moment of boredom. Like Kerry, though, I’m not too sure about the ending. I would love to have someone give me their take on it.
Passages too good not to share:
Lila was beautiful, ugly, raw, armoured, selfish, kind, spineless, brave, a liar, and ultimately truthful. Like anyone else, she was a complex of contradictory impulses. If she had one great weakness, it was self-loathing. Time and again, I watched her plunder the riches that were hers in abundance, choose the bad news about herself over the good. She could have been the poster child for post-confederation Newfoundland.
The trouble is I have trouble with empathy. It seems to sit on the delusional end of the sympathy spectrum, perhaps at the point where sympathy runs out and something darker begins. Empathy is only a confidence trick, a species of legalese, a way of making the afflicted believe you are walking in their shoes. Empathy is the tool that gets you through the door. But who is to say what you will do once inside?
We have a complex and utterly flawed relationship with the truth, and we are all implicated in the great mess of it. We survive by seeing only those things we want to see and hearing only those things we want to hear.
Intoxicants lubricate loopholes in morality, keep them from closing over. They fortify the will, fashion it into a battering ram so it can crash through taboos. Afterwards, they act as a salve, inducing sleep, soothing troubled consciences, allowing humiliations to be refashioned as heroics.
Reading (Snuffy, jailed)
It occurs to him that reading a good book is like getting high. The only difference is that the feeling doesn’t wear off. And more than that, books don’t take anything away from you; in fact, the opposite is true, they give you stuff you can use.
Be sure to check out Chad Pelley’s review of One Hit Wonders at The Overcast.
Cast everything you think you know about a murder-mystery from your head; Warner has rewired the genre adding a vibrant new jolt of electricity and eccentricity to it.
*Thank you to Breakwater Books for providing me with a copy of the book for review!