Quirky, feel-good fiction from the author of The Silver Linings Playbook (2008).
Bartholomew Neil describes himself as having above-average intelligence, though it’s clear his intelligence is unconventional and idiosyncratic. Neil tells his story in a series of letters he writes to Richard Gere, a figure much admired by Neil’s mother. The novel opens with her death, a great loss for Bartholomew, who has lived with her for 38 years. Now he’s bereft and alone, relying on the ministrations of Wendy, his grief counselor, and Father McNamee, a priest at the church Bartholomew has faithfully attended for his entire life. Although at first it’s not quite clear what his motivation is, McNamee abruptly “defrocks himself” to help take care of Bartholomew. In addition to caring for Bartholomew, he spends much time praying but also drinking a daily bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey, and by the end of the novel, it becomes clear that McNamee has much to atone for. Bartholomew is something of a holy innocent. He becomes enamored with the “Girlbrarian,” a woman he falls platonically in love with at the library he haunts. Through synchronicity (a key concept in the novel), it turns out the Girlbrarian, Elizabeth, has a brother, Max, going through grief counseling for his cat, Alice. Max, who can’t get through a single sentence without using the f-word, links up with Bartholomew through Wendy, and the novel switches to a road trip to Canada, where Bartholomew can supposedly discover a father he has long thought dead and Max can visit the “Cat Parliament” in Ottawa.
A whimsical, clever narrative.