Affecting novel of love, coming-of-age and theistic ontology.
Walt Steadman, the protagonist of Trevor’s (English/Univ. of Michigan; The Thin Tear in the Fabric of Space, 2005) sometimes picaresque tale, refuses to grow up. He’s the super of a Boston condo simply in order to get free rent, though he doesn’t really know how to fix anything; he’s obsessed with poetry but can’t get a handle on the dissertation he’s supposed to be writing at Harvard; he has two pairs of shoes, one of which he doesn’t wear, and a single pair of grown-up pants. Walt spends his mornings at a little diner so far away from home that it takes him a couple of transfers to get there; he’s studying the generous form of its sole waitress, Flora Martinez. When a bright young trust-funder philosophy major moves into the building, Walt takes a rare break from the cafe to help her with a project interviewing women about meaning in their lives, “[s]omething Aquinas might have written if he had been a Women’s Studies major.” When tragedy strikes, as it must to even so resolutely unkempt and adolescent a life as Walt’s, he is forced to grow up—some, anyway. That tragedy is skillfully worked into the narrative, both unexpected and inevitable; suffice it to say that every one of Walt’s assumptions is overturned, just as Aquinas might have wanted. In its more whimsical moments, Trevor’s book is reminiscent of Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys and Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, and if Trevor isn’t quite in their league, he has a solid sense of storytelling and the mot juste—and his characters are likable and believable as well.
As much a love song sung to Boston as a conventional novel, and a welcome debut.