Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Companion by Lorcan Roche

A little while back I wrote that I thought there wasn't enough anger in today's writing. Then along comes Lorcan Roche's The Companion a book about two very angry characters; Trevor a caregiver who gets his kicks busting people's heads, and his charge a terminally ill young man suffering from Muscular Dystrophy named Ed. They both have a lot to be angry about. Ed is an only child. His father is a Manhatten Judge ensconced in his study and cares more for his books than his son. His mother is perpetually convalescing from a minor accident and never leaves her room. It's the most depressing portrait of domestic alienation and emotional neglect imaginable. Money might not buy love but fortunately for this family it can buy services. Enter Trevor, a strapping, young, angry Dubliner who answers an ad to be Ed's companion and caregiver. Ed's an ornery, irritable and demanding handful and caregivers don't last. Luckily, the Judge is only too willing to keep writing cheques to replace them. Trevor, it turns out, is experienced in providing care having tended to his dying mother and worked in a hospital for the clinically insane. He has the physical strength and fortitude to handle anything Ed can dish out. Notwithstanding the fact that Ed is physically wasting away while Trevor is fit and works out regularly in the gym, the two undeniably have a lot in common and find solace in each other. They're both fighters. Trevor sees himself in Ed's predicament. "And some days you're so angry you can literally hiss and spit, especially at incredibly healthy fuckers like me who've never been physically sick, not one single solitary day. And you want to lash out, you want to be cruel, and callous, to injure and inflict as much as your mean little spirit will allow. And maybe the only joy you know is the peace that comes after an argument, the feeling of things being washed away by coarse, salty tears. And you wish you could bleed to death heroically, not just leak like a stain into the carpet." This is Trevor talking about Ed, but also himself. In the end this is Trevor's story. We learn about why he fled his home to come to New York, an act of both escape and repentance. America, through Trevor's eyes, is the perfect place to pay your dues because they're so hard to come by here. "Americans are really shite at apologizing; they think the mere fact they bring themselves to mouth the words absolves them. They're not interested in the rites of penance, in listening to precisely how they hurt you, in understanding how small it made you feel. They want to move on, they want closure which is American for wanting things to go swiftly back to the way they were before. Inside their heads. They cannot comprehend that because they don't really know what they did wrong, that because they really don't need to know, the rest of us find them truly terrifying." Reminiscent of Nick Hornby, the searing voice, the depth and candidness of prose are what makes this book so exhilirating. Highly recommended.

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