It was one of those books that lingered on my Kindle for years, waiting for its time. It finally came in February, during my vacation on Tenerife. In the last few years I’ve been mostly reading paper books, so my Kindle typically only gets looked at when I’m on holiday.
We’re moving to Baton Rouge, our narrator now in his thirties, recounts his childhood. The main focus of this part of his life was his obsession with a girl called Lindy Simpson, a local beauty and star of the track. Described by the narrator Lindy almost shines with summer light. Until the unimaginable happens, one night coming back from the track, Lindy is raped, close to her house, in the heart of the small community. No one sees anything, no one hears anything. The case goes unsolved, Lindy unravels and with her the narrator, following her changes like a faithful fan.
It is a coming of age story, the usual teenage rebellion here turned only sharper by the trauma. The relationship is one that cannot happen, yet is being dreamt of. The narrator craves the old Lindy, a person that does not exist anymore, replaced by a damaged, bitter and cynical teenager. As we observe our characters struggle we are also shown the seismic impact Lindy’s rape had on the community. As no one was arrested it seems all men in the neighbourhood can come under suspicion at any moment. And many should though for different reasons.
The narrator actually tells the story to us, addressing his readers directly on multiple occasions, asking for our attention and understanding, even when he admits things he’s ashamed of. Apart from the story of teenage love and a small community shattered by the trauma we also get a view of Baton Rouge. The narrator acknowledges its mediocrity, on one hand despising it but on the other cherishing it as if it is a sign of moderation, in opposition to New Orleans excesses. At the time after the hurricane Katrina, Baton Rouge with its boring stability is there to accept and help the refugees.
It was an interesting read, even if I found it difficult to sympathize with the narrator’s puppy love. What gave it another dimension was the extended view of the community and of Baton Rouge. Often you can feel the sweltering heat and humidity. Given that this is a debut book I am curious how will Walsh develop.