Reclusive psychologist Kit Gillespie muses upon the death of his world-wandering longtime girlfriend Julia in Taylor's (Travel Light & Other Stories, 2013) debut novel.
On a train to Montreal, Kit sketches an attractive Asian woman whom he christens “Alice.” He’s finally taking a trip away from Ottawa after finding out that Julia drowned “up north.” She was an ESL teacher who sought assignments around the world while Kit worked as a “decent therapist—easy-to-talk-to and boring-to-be with.” He is also, as Julia called him, a “hermit” who didn’t even attend the wedding of good friend Alf in Scotland. In Montreal, Kit keeps sketching, a hobby that he never revealed to Julia, and also begins a relationship with cafe owner Louise, initially introducing himself under a different name. He crosses paths with “Alice,” who is actually Sally, a psychiatrist. Kit goes out to dinner with her but is spooked by her intense questioning. He returns to Ottawa to see his current patients; ruminate on his ongoing friendship with former patient Angela, who often probes him about Julia; and reread Julia’s letters, the only form of communication he had with her when they were apart. He sends some of these letters to Sally, which leads to intensive therapy sessions with her back in Montreal and new steps for Kit, including a trip to Scotland and possibly more travels to come. First-time novelist Taylor (Travel Light & Other Stories, 2013) brings a key character from his previous short story collection into this beautifully written first-person narrative that fits within the tradition of A Gesture Life and The Remains of the Day. While Julia drowned, it’s Kit who is truly underwater; Taylor creates a well-drawn portrait of this character’s struggle for self-awareness and expression, particularly in the scenes depicting Kit’s secret sketching and enjoyment of Ottawa parks. The description of Julia’s final journey late in the novel is a bit rushed and confusing, although it also serves, as do most details in this narrative, to show Kit’s shifting perspective.
A fine, magnetic debut novel.