This is one of the most unique novels I have read in quite some time, and if you enjoy original writing, you must read it.
Nigel and Caleb are brothers, bound by a terrible tragedy involving the death of their parents. Each is affected differently: Nigel, 35, feels responsible for his brother, and Caleb, 29, suffers from severe agoraphobia.
To compensate for Caleb’s inability to ever leave the house, Nigel allows his brother to live vicariously through him. When Nigel comes home from work, he talks to Caleb about “their” day. As a reader, this does take a little getting used to; there were a few times when I thought, “Caleb left the house?” Nigel shares every detail with Caleb, and because of this, Caleb feels as if he does get out.
When Nigel begins to fall in love with a fellow professor, though, he decides he doesn’t want to share his developing romance with Caleb. He keeps it from him, and Caleb, ever astute, knows something is going on. Thanks to a webcam Nigel set up in his classroom, Caleb sleuths out the reason for Nigel’s occasional reticence – and his newly developed extended absences from home. Caleb even figures out who this woman is, and he, too, falls in love with her.
Anthony Lamarr tells his story from both men’s points of view, and each mind is fascinating. The weight and burden that Nigel carries as far as Caleb is concerned hurts us. When he gets the opportunity to love someone – something Nigel clearly thought would never happen – we beg him to take it. We want him to forsake Caleb, even if just for a few stolen moments here and there.
Less sympathetic, at first, is Caleb. His sense of entitlement for Nigel’s life overwhelms us, but we slowly come to understand why Caleb feels as he does. It didn’t make me like him more, but I could see why he believes that he has a right to know everything Nigel experiences.
These two brothers exist under the inescapable gloom of their parents’ death, something Caleb is unable to recall. When we do learn the circumstances of the tragedy, everything becomes clear. Does it affect our sympathies? Heighten them? Diminish?
Everything about this book is superb. Each brother’s voice emits its own mood and tone, and we know these two men. We become as much a part of their lives as Caleb is of Nigel’s.
Read it. You really should.