In this dreary first novel from an Irish playwright, a lonely Irishman tends to a dying New Yorker while wrestling his own demons.
Trevor Comerford, a 20-something Irishman in New York, is a self-described gentle giant, with a big ugly head and huge hands. Even giants need jobs, so Trevor answers a newspaper ad for a companion to a youth with Muscular Dystrophy. Nineteen-year-old Ed could hardly be in worse shape. Toothpick-thin, his immune system in shambles, death may be only months away. But Trevor is not fazed; at a clinic in Dublin, he had taught kids with every imaginable disorder. After an interview with the kid’s mother, a blimp-like, bedridden horror, and driving a hard bargain with the father, an emotionally distant judge, Trevor moves into their Manhattan apartment. Ed is a handful, and the pain causes him to lash out, but he and Trevor reach an understanding, and they both become better people. Their relationship is certainly smoother than that between Trevor and the reader, for the Irishman is an unreliable narrator, a device Roche handles crudely. He seeks to ingratiate himself with his exotic experiences in India, but later confesses that he’s never been there. He lies about the present too. That soul-searching encounter with the priest in St. Patrick’s? Never happened. What does seem clear is Trevor’s unresolved Oedipus complex. His mother was the love of his life and his mild-mannered father his enemy. Ma wasted away (cancer?), whereupon Trevor left for New York, still churning with an anger he cannot explain. Naturally his few experiences with women stateside are unsatisfying. The bar pickup wants him to urinate on her; Dana, Ed’s hot physical therapist, only wants a one-night stand. These and other episodes constitute Trevor’s life outside the apartment, hardly enough for a full-length novel. At least he does right by the virginal Ed, fixing him up with a hooker who gamely administers oral sex.
An end-of-life drama overshadowed by the conflicts of an unappealing protagonist.