Lyn G. Farrell was the recipient of the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursary which was set up in Luke’s memory to support and encourage fledgling writers. Through this we have the opportunity to read Lyn’s debut novel The Wacky Man, a book which intrigued me from the offset as I first got a glimpse into Amanda Duffy’s troubled world…
‘It’s like looking into a murky river, I say. Memories flash near the surface like fish coming up for flies. The past peeps out, startles me, and then is gone.’
I was instantly gripped and moved by the plight of Amanda, a young girl who is visiting her psychologist, a young girl who has a very bleak view on the world. The Wacky Man tells Amanda’s story, switching back and forth through time as we learn what has caused her to feel this way. The novel switches between first and third person narratives. This worked well as we witness Amanda in the present day in her own words but those sections told from third person give a detailed account of the events that shaped her life. And these events left me feeling shocked and saddened. This is a story that tackles very difficult subject matter and there are some moments in particular that make for uncomfortable reading. That said I was desperate to find out more about her story and how she could move on, which made for a gripping read.
‘She is left alone in the dark, listening to the sounds gathering at the foot of her bed, feeling her heart pumping in her ribs like a prisoner rattling the bars.’
The key theme here is abuse, both physical and psychological, and the impact that it can have. Amanda and her family are victims of unimaginable suffering which results in damage that cannot easily be undone, scars that remain even though they have faded on the surface. It is a heartbreaking journey for the reader to watch Amanda grow up in a household where childhood is marred by abuse and fear. As she reaches her teens the effects of her troubled family life are clear to see. It is shocking to see how a young girl can become so critical of herself and the world around her. Farrell has perfectly captured a mix of emotions – the fear, the anger, and the feeling that you do not belong in the world.
‘She is rising upwards, carried along inside this soft bubble where she is free.’
I enjoyed reading The Wacky Man. It was at times difficult to read but despite the harrowing content I found it difficult to tear myself away from the pages. It is a moving account of one girl and her family and the violence that consumes them.
The Wacky Man was published on 2nd May 2016 by Legend Press. Many thanks to Lyn G. Farrell and Legend Press for providing a copy for review.