From Publishers Weekly
Grappling with larger-than-life issues of guilt, redemption and forgiveness, Morrall showcases the kind of quirky characters and improbable plotting that made her debut, Astonishing Splashes of Colour
, a finalist for Britain's prestigious Booker Prize. Is a 50-something hermit, Peter Straker, responsible for the deaths of 78 people a quarter-century ago, when he crashed his small plane into a moving passenger train? The coroner ruled the crash an accident, but the details are hazy in Peter's memory, part of his former life as a drunken playboy. Eaten by guilt, Peter doesn't speak except to the 78 victims, who now live in his head: "There isn't room in his mind for anyone else." For two years, he has corresponded with the passengers' families under false pretenses, fueling his own guilt and inciting the families to seek him out for revenge. When morose, embittered Imogen Doody, a 40-ish school caretaker and writer, inherits a dilapidated cottage near the decommissioned lighthouse where Peter lives, Peter begins a tentative engagement with the world of the living, pursuing an unlikely relationship with her. Morrall is a deft guide through the landscape of grief, but her artistic prose can distance readers from her characters.
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Booker Prize finalist Clare Morrall invites the reader to the Devon coast and into the company of Peter Straker, living in a former working lighthouse, and Imogen Doody, a school caretaker living in a run-down cottage she has inherited in a nearby village. Both Straker and Doody are misfits in their own right. Haunted by their respective pasts and each hiding something, both struggle to come to terms with the tragic events that changed their lives some 24 years ago. Did Straker really kill 78 people? And what is it about seeing a biplane take to the air? Did he once have a pilot's license? Morrall places the reader alone with Straker and Doody, alone with the wind and the sea. Guilt, death, and the impact of premature death on families and friends are at the core of this novel. Straker and Doody's relationship is initially uncomplicated; then it all changes. Readers will remember them painting in silence, the tension of their conversations as it begins to dissipate, and the increasing ease of their presence. Sarah WatsteinCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved