Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Marty's shadow

Marty’s shadow

Author: John Heffernan

Marty knows something is not right. There is something in his past that has left a shadow over his life. His nightmares, flashbacks and erratic behavior leave him fearful and confused. He wants to know what happened, just as much as he fears what that knowledge could mean.

This novel is difficult to read – not the prose though, which is unrelenting in it’s stark unveiling of Marty’s psyche – but in the sheer weight of the sorrows, traumas, fears and confrontations that Marty exists under. There’s the Event in his past, his alcoholic mother, abusive father, racial tensions in the town, cruel teachers, possible girlfriend, bullying at school, his pet dog, and his uncomfortable relationship with his brother. The way he deals with all this is shadowed by the Event in the past, which is slowly revealed in a series of Post Traumatic Stress induced flashbacks.

There’s brutal realism in this story; Heffernan takes Marty to the very edge of life, destroying everything Marty has ever clung to, leaving only a shadow behind. I found the ambiguity of the ending quite frightening – is his father, to continue to protect the secret from the past, actively working to ensure that Marty remains in his traumatized state? To me, that can be the only possible reason for the gift they take him…

A disturbing, engrossing read, that has left me thinking on its themes. And it’s left me wanting to read Marty’s brother’s story now, wanting to know his experience of his family, his town, his brother.

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