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TEN MILES ONE WAY by Patrick Downes Kirkus Star


by Patrick Downes

Pub Date: March 21st, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-399-54499-6
Publisher: Philomel

While Nest hangs onto life after driving into a tree, Q, her sometimes-boyfriend, makes a written record of one shared day so that people will know she was loved.

When Nest is in the manic phase of the bipolar disorder she inherited from her father, she takes long walks to calm the “Chimaera” within. Three years ago, when they were 17, Nest invited Q, aka Isaac Kew, to go along with her through the city streets, instructing him to remain silent. Listening to her rapid-fire ramblings on the first 10 miles of their journey was like walking “with a girl whose own mind was a fever.” Alternating with Q’s account, Nest’s stream of consciousness, liberally sprinkled with classic love poems, reveals her intelligence and a legitimate fear of insanity. She recognizes her own vulnerability as well, pointing out that Q, “tall, strong, and white,” can walk pretty much where and when he chooses (Nest’s own ethnicity is ambiguous). As Q records their journey, he occasionally pauses to reflect on what he’s writing as Nest faces “life, death, and the horizon line.” In his second novel, Downes (Fell of Dark, 2015) subtly plumbs the depths of mental illness within the broader context of relationship and self-awareness. Told mile by mile, the story reaches an allegorical climax even as it stops midway through a day that’s both harrowing and beautiful.

An intricate, unusual love story for readers attuned to compassion.

(Fiction. 14-adult)