'I would remind myself of how many people there were like me, & how many people fall into the despair of loneliness...'
Arthur Opp, at around 550 pounds, is extremely overweight, and he hasn't left his large home in Brooklyn in ten years. He was an academic, but no longer works, supporting himself through money from a father he never sees, and ordering everything from food to books online and having it all delivered to his door. He tells us his home was once 'very lovely inside and out', but has now fallen 'into a sort of haunted disrepair', and he hasn't seen the upper floors in a decade. His only real friendship, since his friend Marty passed away, is an infrequent correspondence with an ex-student of his, Charlene Turner, and the novel commences with a frank letter that he is composing to her.
'There was a delicious romance in being utterly alone, & I told myself I was nobler for it, & that there was a purpose to my solitude, O there must be.'
Liz Moore has captured how loneliness feels. How a person can withdraw from the world and years can pass by, spent in this solitude. In Arthur and Kel, she has created two wonderful, damaged, loveable characters whose lives are gradually drawn closer together through the strand that connects them; the life of one woman, herself lonely and destroyed. Slowly, their lives begin to shift. The appearance in Arthur's life of Yolanda signifies his first real contact with the outside world for a long time. An unlikely but wonderful friendship begins.
Meanwhile, the huge change in his life, partway through the story, takes Kel full circle, sees him spiralling down into despair, and leaves him longing 'to collapse into myself until I no longer exist, I want to live in my mother's house and never go out.' This passage sounds like Arthur. Kel wants to isolate himself from the world now. Are these two very different people actually rather alike? What has happened to make Kel feel this way? What will happen to them both?
The story moves along beautifully, it gripped me from the very start; it has surprises for us along the way, and is enjoyable and very poignant. I felt that the author really cared about these characters. It is a story filled with sadness and hope, and told in an intimate, warmhearted way. I loved, cared about, rooted for and was thoroughly convinced by Arthur and Kel and their lives throughout.
Published by Hutchinson.