I really loved the story. I remember seeing the novel on the bookstore shelves not long after its publication, and I wanted to read it. Being a quite, not shy, watching person myself, any book that dealt with the people at ease on the edges of the crowd felt immediately comfortable.
But I put off reading the novel until earlier this October, more than a decade after I first held the book in my hands. And I’m glad I waited until I had grown up a little more. If I had read the story so close to my experience in high school, I would’ve completely missed all of the references to the numerous groups of like-minded lovers of all that life has to offer, like the Algonquin, and my enjoyment would’ve have been less.
And the space gave me some perspective on my own high school experience, which allowed me to connect with these complex characters. Charlie and Patrick and Sam come with a tremendous amount of baggage that, like real life, we only get to see parts of. As much as we learn about all of them through the course of the novel, we never get the complete story for any of them. We get the most important pieces of them, and no one gets to be completely good or bad or friend or enemy or pigeonholed into any one category. Even secondary characters do not get to be any one thing.
I cried through whole sections of this book because I recognized the pain of these characters in my own experience. They are damaged without being broken, and their efforts to keep from falling to pieces demonstrate ways to accept the entirety of their lives, from the great to the horrifying to the mundane to the sorrowful. Because life is all of these and more and becomes complete with the acceptance of its multifaceted nature.
I loved this story, but realize it is not for everyone, as it deals with very major topics. But for those who’ve always felt like they are alone on the edges, Charlie can be a friend to walk the path to connecting with others. And sometimes when you live on the edge, you need to see a way to live with others, and this novel can be that.