In Murray’s debut literary novel, a middle-aged drifter searches for her brother and finds herself.
Isabel “Izzy” O’Hara is a sad woman, and not just because she’s been recently diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and seasonal affective disorder. It’s because she can’t seem to feel at home anywhere, no matter how hard she tries. She loses numerous jobs, turns down a government position, and later believes that government operatives are following her. She receives charity from her distant parents and her more successful friends; her eyesight is failing her, and she doesn’t know why; and worst of all, she misses her brother Tommy, whom she hasn’t seen since he ran away from home 20 years ago. After she’s fired from yet another dull job, Izzy sets off on a journey to find Tommy and begin repairing her dysfunctional family. Along the way, she falls in love with a rockabilly singer who reminds her of her brother, changes her identity, and keeps up a steady drinking habit while searching for a new career. She finds comfort from her mother and her mysteriously ever present friend, Greer, and eventually begins to make peace with her turbulent past. From the first page, the book is full of beautiful descriptions: “It is the vortex of winter, and in Nellie’s Escort, I trundle across interstate I-80,” the book begins. From there, the story moves slowly between Izzy’s internal musings, vivid flashbacks to her childhood, and plenty of rock ’n’ roll song lyrics. Anyone looking for an action-packed adventure story will be disappointed, but those who want to read a thoughtful, character-driven study of aging, family, and the ups and downs of life will likely fall in love—especially if they’re also fans of the Midwest and rock music. The narrative switches between past and present tenses as often as it shifts between past and present events, but not always at the same time, which gets confusing; it also suffers from frequent, though minor, typos. But these are just small bumps on an otherwise smooth road.
An enjoyable, contemplative drive through Middle America and middle age.