A nameless college graduate arrives in Chicago at the end of a 1970s summer. In his 15 months there, he grows in maturity and becomes a "storycatcher," a writer of empathy, insight, and passion.
In a magical north-side apartment house near Lake Michigan owned by a quiet Greek heiress and maintained by a reclusive Navy retiree, the young man finds a home and neighbors who become friends. There’s a librettist, a cricket fanatic, a Scots-born tailor who lives with a detective, and an elderly fellow with a foolproof method for betting on horse races. Every soul strides onto the page vivid and distinct, each drawn with clearsighted, open-hearted emotion. Most important, there’s Edward, a dog "of uncertain heritage." Appearing in the narrative seamlessly and with humanlike emotions, thoughts, and behaviors reflected rather than declared, Edward is both dog and metaphor, with a silent wisdom and integrity that keep Doyle’s novel from turning into a Mitch Albom feel-good fantasy. Each morning the young man rides the 5 a.m. Sound Asleep Bus driven by kindly and philosophical Donald B. Morris to a Catholic publication. There he reports for an editor straight off The Front Page. In this perhaps roman à clef, the young man mulls over the mores of street basketball and categorizes the blues as he follows gut-churning electric guitars into obscure Lincoln Avenue bars, cheers the White Sox, aids the apartment house owner’s financial rescue, and, with Edward, tours odd corners and alleys of Chicago. Page follows page of evocative writing as Doyle celebrates "the shopkeepers and cops and nuns and bus drivers and carpenters and teachers who composed the small vibrant villages that collectively were the real Chicago."
The quiet introspection and cleareyed focus on a vibrant and powerful American city makes Doyle’s (Martin Marten, 2015, etc.) paean to Chicago a literary jewel.