My new shrink asks me, ‘What things do you remember about being very young?’ It’s like looking into a murky river, I say. Memories flash near the surface like fish coming up for flies. The past peeps out, startles me, and then is gone…
Amanda secludes herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised.
As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape?
Ever wondered what it would feel like to be punched in the gut, hard, by a poet?
No, me neither, but once I’d finished reading The Wacky Man, I knew exactly how it would feel.
Wow! No book has ever quite had such an emotional impact on me whilst reading it. This novel was not only incredibly moving and powerful to read, but it made me re-evaluate a lot of things I thought I knew. It moved me to tears a lot, but also made me gasp with the beauty of it.
I don’t know how Lyn G. Farrell does it, but in The Wacky Man she manages to shape brutal, terrible subject matters – domestic violence, insanity, social unrest, fear – using the most stunningly beautiful language. When she writes, she doesn’t try too hard to make the reader understand what’s happening: she just writes what is and as a result, it feels like you’re living the story rather than reading it. She doesn’t tell the story, she shows it. For that reason, it spoke to me on so many levels.
She screams, an astonishing noise that explodes into the silence to send the night things rattling away and then hangs in the sky like a flare. The scream unpins Amanda’s frozen limbs like a magic spell and she scrabbles down the lumpy ground through high grown weeds that knot around her ankles like snares.
For me, the front cover perfectly reflects that of the writing inside: truly gorgeous artistry, with an upsetting but important subject matter within.
Seamus and Barbara are a young couple about to get married. Seamus comes from a big Irish family, Barbara from a quiet English background. Unrest and violence at the hands of the IRA are a growing problem, and Irish/English relations are at breaking point. Seamus seems to be kind, funny, friendly soul to the outside world, but behind closed doors hides a monster and the consequences of his actions will reverberate throughout both his and his children’s lives. Barbara does her best to protect their twin boys, Tommo and Jamie, and their daughter Amanda from his terrifying rages, but slowly the violence and fear begin to take their toll. The Wacky Man explores the consequences of such traumatic experiences on the lives of those who are domestically abused.
The story moves along in two narrative strands: the first is written in Amanda’s voice, talking in the present and sharing her childhood memories and her current predicament. She has locked herself in her bedroom and her sanity is slowly unravelling. The second narrative explores the past: both the early days of her parents’ marriage, and Amanda and her brothers’ harrowing childhoods. This is so effective because the book answers questions as it raises them without being overly transparent. It allows the reader to understand Barbara’s story, as well as Amanda’s. It keeps you invested in the family’s story and keeps you moving through the book, all the while hoping that things get better for them and they find a way to escape this hell.
What I loved most about the book is its authenticity. I don’t know if any of the things that happen in the book ever happened to Lyn, but I tell you, if they didn’t, she got her research spot on. What resonated with me in particular were Amanda’s experiences of being bullied and overlooked in school. When I was reading, I became Amanda while being simultaneously transported back to the old me, a desperately unhappy girl who is bullied and afraid. Having been that bullied girl, I can tell you right now that Farrell gets it absolutely spot on. All of the emotions; the erratic thoughts, the feeling of losing control and losing self-esteem: it’s all so expertly written.
For me, this isn’t a book you can afford to miss. So, it’s not the happiest of topics: but that’s what makes it work so well. It is honest, it is raw, but it is beautiful, and a truly magnificent read.
About the author:
Lyn G. Farrell is the winner of the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursary and The Wacky Man is her debut novel.
Lyn grew up in Lancashire where she would have gone to school if life had been different. She spent most of her teenage years reading anything she could get her hands on.
She studied Psychology at the University of Leeds and now works in the School of Education at Leeds Beckett University.
Follow Lyn on Twitter @FarrellWrites
Follow the publisher Legend Press @legend_press
Buy a copy of the book here.