The other outstanding book I read this week was Booker longlist title Carry Me Down by M. J. Hyland.
Carry Me Down is a dark, disturbing psychological portrait of a boy caught in transition between childhood and manhood, between interests and obsessions, and all the subsequent emotions.
John Eagan is almost 12 years old with the body and voice of a grown man. He is an only child who lives with his parents at his grandmother's. John's father does not work (he's studying for an exam he never takes) and his mother works part-time. His grandmother, who seems to have plenty of money, spends her days at the racetrack. His father and grandmother do not get along. John is unusually close to his mother, physically as well as emotionally. John would like to be close to his father, but his father repeatedly disappoints him. More than anything, John wants to be understood.
As the story begins, John realizes he can detect when his father lies to him. He soon expands this theory to include his mother and grandmother, as well as his best friend. He convinces himself that he is a human lie detector and that this will be his ticket to be in his favorite book, The Guinness Book of World Records. He begins to tell lies and to steal as experiments in order to fine tune his theory. He starts his own book, the Gol of Seil (Log of Lies), where he records all his speculations and results of his experiments. John's home life begins to unravel at the same time his interest in lie detection turns to obsession.
M. J. Hyland takes readers on a spellbinding rollercoaster ride in this tale of disintegration and obsession. Told in first person by John, readers are brought to the brink time and again, right along with him, only to be yanked back. Her prose is crisp and clear, and nothing (the characters nor the plot) is gratuitous.
Carry Me Down was an up-all-nighter for me. It was very difficult for me to put down. I finished it last night, and I haven't been able to pick up a book today because it is still running around in my head.
This is only the second title off the Booker longlist that I've read. If the others are like this in quality, then the Booker judges certainly have their work cut out for them.