I am taking part in my first ever blog tour for this amazing book! I've got a fabulous Q & A with Lyn G. Farrell, the author of The Wacky Man, to share with you all.
But here is my review. The Wacky Man was the winner of the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursary, the UK's biggest prize for unpublished authors. And here's why:
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?
Wow. Just wow. This is the compelling, brutal story of a teenager in a family broken by the father's violence. I say brutal, but the descriptions of the violence are not gratuitous at all, but written as matter-of-fact, as Amanda and her family have accepted their lot. Outside intervention has little effect, our heroine is apparently beyond help. The contrast between some of her teachers, who consider her nothing more than a big problem for them, and those who do care - Mr Kramm and 'shrink' Mr Broeder - is vivid, and heart-breaking.
Amanda is an intelligent, articulate young woman, despite her avoidance of education. It is harrowing that there are children such as Amanda out there. We all know it happens, but this book brings it to the forefront of your mind. Some people are unfortunately unsalvageable, and we see the obstacles in the way of those who try to help them rather than leaving them to rot in society.
Despite, or perhaps in spite of, the harrowing story, I highly recommend this novel. It is not a misery memoir - it is so much more, so well written that I could not put it down. Amanda's voice prevents it from being depressing even though she is close to losing her mind, and her situation is so very heartbreaking.
The author wrote this book not to evoke sympathy and hand-wringing, but to be a voice for children like Amanda who are so often not heard.
It's bloody brilliant.
Thanks to the publisher Legend Press for an advanced reading copy.