I recently took part in the blog tour for Men Like Air, Tom Connolly’s second novel, in which he discussed his favourite films set in New York. And this week I finished reading Men Like Air, in which I got to explore New York, and the lives of four men on the city’s streets.
‘Feeling lonely on the streets of Manhattan felt better than all the other places he’d ever felt lonely’
The story begins with nineteen-year-old Finn who travels to New York City to settle the score with his older brother Jack. The brothers have had a difficult childhood and a fraught relationship, with Finn annoyed at his sibling for leaving him behind following the death of their parents. By Finn’s side on this journey is his irrepressible girlfriend Dilly – a bold, passionate character who herself is leaving things behind her. But whilst the start of the novel is more concerned with Finn and Dilly’s relationship the focus soon turns to the relationships between the novels male characters, namely Finn and Jack. But it is not only the brothers whose lives will change over the course of the novel, as they cross paths with two other men, and together their destinies collide.
‘He lay on his back, the huge cast-iron rivets mountainous to his eyes, and he felt happy. He listened to the whisper of cool air rising off the Hudson and the miniature sleeping lives of New Yorkers drumming along the railroad lines and reaching his ear like a distant playground. He was safe.’
It is on his exploration of the city that Finn stumbles upon a gallery owned by Leo, a man haunted by loneliness. Leo is a man who has been privileged and had good experiences in his life, but some aspects of this life have left him unsettled, particularly in comparison to his friend, William. In addition to being his oldest friend William also happens to be Leo’s brother in law as he is happily married to his sister Joy who helps to keep the two friends together. And as the four men meet, a series of interconnected events take place which will alter all of their lives forever. There is a contrast between the older and younger men, and they all to some extent learn from one and other, and the story explores male relationships and how they adapt and change. Finn learns from Leo’s maturity, and in turn Leo is given a new lease of life. And as Leo and William reminisce on the past and come to terms with growing old, Finn and Jack begin to heal their own relationship. I enjoyed the setting of the novel and as cliché as this may sound the city of New York is in itself a main character in the story. As the characters travel around Manhattan the city is described in vivid detail enabling the reader to take in the characters surroundings.
‘Routine made sense of Manhattan. Without it, how could they know which way to turn in the infinite city? Routine made devotion possible; how else to steer clear of the other people they might have become.’
I was a little apprehensive when I first started reading Men Like Air given the fact that this was a largely male dominated story with the female characters playing more of a fleeting role. However, once I got into the book I found it to be an enjoyable read focusing on male relationships which was both heartfelt and humorous. A love letter to New York City, it is a story which explores the complexities of the human heart.
Men Like Air was published on 21st September 2016 by Myriad Editions. Many thanks to Emma Dowson at Myriad Editions for providing a copy for review.