A ghost recalls his life, which culminated in suicide, in this low-key novel from Long (The Daughters of Simon Lamoreaux, 2000, etc.).
It’s 2002, ten years since narrator Evan Molloy shot himself at age 42, and only now are all his memories becoming clear. Evan had a house in Seattle; as a ghost, he is confined to the house and yard. He cannot manifest himself to the living, or intervene on their behalf, though he would like to help the current occupant, a single woman having difficulty ending an affair with a demanding married man (her story runs parallel with Evan’s). His feebleness in death mirrors the feebleness of his life, which he takes us through, ploddingly. He always lived in the Seattle area and had an okay childhood, though his mother split for Africa. His first job was as a business consultant. His first love, Claudia, became his wife; they were wildly happy at first, but after three years, Evan is unfaithful to her, with Frannie, a coworker. Why? He can’t explain it. Sex must have been part of the reason, but Long won’t write sex, which only matters here because it plays such a central role. Evan ends his affair (again, we don’t know why) at the exact moment Claudia learns of it. She leaves him. More than a decade later, they re-marry, Claudia bringing with her Janey, the difficult child of her failed second marriage. Once again, a happy marriage falls apart, and it’s all Evan’s fault. He gets angry for no reason. Claudia and Janey move out; his boss gives him a leave of absence. Evan’s optional suicide (“mine was a surmountable despair”) has no trigger; it is not artistically satisfying. How very different from a classic suicide novel such as O’Hara’s Appointment in Samarra, where the drama flows from the gathering inevitability of the act. If Evan had taken the right meds (he’d been on antidepressants), we might have had a happy ending.
Evan is a dull protagonist, his decisions left unilluminated.