Wide Open

Nicola Barker, Author Ecco Press $23.95 (293p) ISBN 978-0-88001-632-2
Barker is a young, award-winning English writer barely known here (her Love Your Enemies is nominally available from Faber), who has now been taken on by enterprising Ecco. She is a highly offbeat writer, weaving a strange tale of abandonment and redemption around a set of eccentric characters brought together on a bleak stretch of the Thames estuary called the Isle of Sheppey. There is Ronny (later to change his name to Jim), who comes across another Ronny dangling from a bridge over a highway while he is driving to his work spraying weed killer. Ronny 1 (Jim) finds this stranger knows his brother Nathan, who works in the Underground Lost Property Office. Out at Sheppey is Ronny 1's neighbor Sara, who runs a boar farm; Luke, a pornographic photographer who is trying to stop smoking and drinking in this remote seaside place; Sara's noisy, strung-out daughter Lily; and Sara's niece, optician Connie, who comes to visit. These odd, damaged people are presented with tenderness and humor, their baffling and often outrageous interactions chronicled with benign acceptance; and eventually they achieve a sort of uneasy, hard-won peace in the death of Ronny 2 and the unraveling of an old family secret. What keeps the reader engaged among the murky goings-on is the ever alert and highly original style Barker employs, full of vivid images and little explosions of recognition; there is a poetic sensibility at work among these extremely prosy characters. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998
Release date: 10/01/1998
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-06-093375-3
Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-4532-8823-8
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