Monday, April 30, 2018


William Boyle's new novel isn't exactly a sequel to his previous one, Gravesend, but we do follow Amy, a small side character from that first novel, a party girl who formed a relationship with Gravesend's heroine, Alessandra. In The Lonely Witness she has cut herself off from her past life after Alessandra abandons her, and sequesters herself socially in her Brooklyn neighborhood, where she volunteers for a local Catholic church, providing in-home communion for the elderly.

Once again, Boyle provides us with a deep study of an emotionally lost character as she drifts through a detailed Brooklyn steeped in sadness. The novel is all about identity as Amy struggles to figure out her place in the world. She constantly believes that the life she's set up for herself as a helper to the ignored is the right one, but she keeps finding herself pulled in other directions. Old friends from the past and the people who inhabit her life presently all know different Amy's, but the real question that she has to ask herself is which one is the real her. You get the sense that Amy has hidden behind all of these personality facades all her life and now she's on a journey to realize who she truly is. Amy, as well as most of the other characters in the book, set about to leave their dead end lives, sometimes with tragic consequences.

Like Gravesend, this book is a slow novel and a bit meandering, but the reason why it doesn't fully succeed for me the way Gravesend did is because where that first novel switched back and forth between equally fascinating POV's, keeping it fresh, this one just focuses on one character, one that happens to be a hard nut to crack, so the pace and other issues were more evident. But the novel's conclusion as well as Boyle's keen-eyed observance really clicked with me.

The Lonely Witness come out tomorrow, May 1, and this is my review of an advanced copy that I received in exchange for an honest review!


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