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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Review of THE LONELY WITNESS by William Boyle (New Release)

2.5 Stars
Amy Falconetti, a thirty-something New Yorker, has abandoned her life as a bartender and partier.  She volunteers for a church, bringing communion to elderly shut-ins.    One day she follows a man who has discomfited one of her elderly neighbours and witnesses his murder.  Instead of calling the police, she picks up the murder weapon and leaves; in the following days, she starts to worry that the killer is following her.  Her routine life suddenly becomes chaotic, complicated even further when two people from her past make unexpected returns. 

This book just didn’t do anything for me.  Amy’s behaviour from the beginning is just unbelievable.  After her former lover abandoned her, she explains, “’I started going to church, and I just felt like I could hide out and maybe help people.’”  She does not seem to be religious or spiritual and as a gay person would probably have some difficulties with the teachings of the Catholic faith, but she chooses to deliver communion?  She witnesses a murder yet does nothing to help the victim?  Instead she takes the murder weapon and hides it in her home?  Especially after the childhood incident involving Bob Tully, an incident which she describes as having “shaped her life,” she chooses to behave as she does?  When Amy says, “’I don’t know why I do what I do,’” the reader can only echo with “I don’t know why you do what you do!”  And when she thinks, “this was definitely the wrong road to go down.  Beyond the pale.  Epic as fuck, in terms of how stupid she’s being,” the reader can only agree! 

It seems that Amy is trying to find her true identity:  “’I’ve been searching for an identity my whole life, trying all these different lives.’”   For years she lived an entirely different life drinking and partying:  “She thinks about what she would’ve done when she was twenty-five or twenty-eight.  She would’ve gone out.  She would’ve headed straight to the bar.  Shots.  Beer.  Music.  She wouldn’t have felt intimidated or regretful.  High school had taught her that . . . no way was it wrong to chase a feeling, to be unhinged, to act out of fear and fascination.  How did she lose that knowledge?  Whatever she’d gained had led to so much lost.”  Now she feels she has become “so boring.”  She even toys with reclaiming her old life by dressing in her old clothes and revisiting old haunts and friends.  She decides she does not want to grow old, living in “fear of a toxic future.  Lives get smaller, ruled by paranoia and isolation, and there’s nothing left to do but stay in retreat, stay hidden.  Collect things, shield yourself, keep out of the sun.” 

When Amy makes some questionable choices, she justifies them to herself as a desire to escape her boring existence:  You do things because you have to be near the beating heart of terror.”  Perhaps my inability to identify with Amy stems from the fact that I don’t want to live “near the beating heart of terror.”  I don’t need to stalk potentially violent people or contemplate carrying out a criminal act in order “to fill the void.”  Amy is in her mid-thirties and says she is “starting to feel old” but she behaves like someone half her age.  As a teenager, she found “Catholic school was boring.  The nuns were boring.  Her grandparents were boring.  Smoking was boring.”  Twenty years later, she has the same complaint that she has become “so boring”?!  Not living in an inner city, perhaps my life is too safe so I have difficulty understanding the lives of people who witness murders on a regular basis; three major characters witness four murders.

In the end, Amy comments, “Maybe she’ll feel new for a while, this most recent wreck a movie she never wants to watch again.”  Her comments reflected my feelings as I finished the novel:  I wanted to move on to something new because I felt like I had watched a bad movie (with an especially bad climactic scene with ever so not subtle symbolism) which I do not want to watch again.

Note:  I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.