I was reading a fellow reviewers blog recently and saw that she had described a book as delicate. It occurred to me that of all the adjectives I’ve used to describe writing, delicate is not one of them. How does book, novel, story emerge as delicate? I racked my brain to come up with something from my past I would describe as such and still I came up lacking.
And before you think I’m going to use this term for Sadie Jones’ The Outcast, I am not. However, since the term was stuck in my head, I did come to associate it with Lewis, the main character, whom I loved.
When we met him, Lewis is a young nineteen-year-old fresh out of prison. However, his story goes back – way back to that of a young child who first doesn’t understand the presence of a new man in his mother’s life. (His father, of whom he has no memory, freshly returned from WWII.) And then as a slightly older child who is the sole witness to his mother’s tragic drowning.
When you add a distant father who in his reservation casts a veiled question of Lewis’ guilt in his mother’s death; a community who whispers assumptions of the mother’s alcoholism contributing to the cause; and a quickly acquired, new young-step mother who does her best to bury the ghost of the home’s former mistress, a troubled and yes, delicate, teen emerges.
Set primarily in the 1950’s, The Outcast is full of contemporary themes: child abuse and domestic violence, cutting, drunk driving, sex and the pressures of keeping up appearances, reminding readers that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
In Lewis, Jones paints a portrait of grief and repression, and the ills that grow within when one tries to hide and cover emotional wounds.
Recently, our pastor spoke on the false truth of “time heals all wounds” arguing instead that “time heals clean wounds.” Injuries that are covered without being addressed properly first are left to fester and rot. And so it is with Lewis.
A provoking read, The Outcast is recommended for those who are not afraid to catch a glimpse of the darkness that can take up residence within the human soul.