Wish You Were Here

Graham Swift. Knopf, $25 (336p) ISBN 978-0-307-70012-4
Swift's stunning new novel (after Light of Day) begins with deceptive slowness, detailing the lives of Jack and Ellie, the English husband-and-wife proprietors of a trailer park on the Isle of Wight. Jack and his brother Tom grew up on a dairy farm, but after mad cow disease decimates the livestock, their father commits suicide and the brothers grow apart—Tom enlists and goes off to fight in Iraq, while Jack and Ellie built a happy, if quiet, existence. But when a letter from the Ministry of Defence arrives—addressed to the old farm and rerouted "by someone with a long memory" to the Isle of Wight—Jack learns that the burden of repatriating his brother's remains has fallen on his shoulders, a responsibility that will cause Jack to confront the complexities of "life and all its knowledge," and the sheltering peace of death. Swift (Last Orders) creates an elegant rawness with language that carries the reader through several layers of Jack's consciousness at once—his lonely past, his uncertain future, and the ways in which his father and his brother both refuse to leave him alone, despite how long they've been gone. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/21/2012
Release date: 04/01/2012
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