A young man replaces the intensity of loneliness with the intensity of dear friendship to find it can be just as dark.
Moving back and forth in time between Owen’s present at his best friend Zach’s funeral in New York City and their past together at Oxford, this novel escalates to a dramatic conclusion. Owen is a thoughtful and intelligent boy from a working-class British background, the first in his family to go to university and an outcast among his peers; Zach is a wealthy American boy on his year abroad, brilliant and impassioned, with a reckless approach to life. Both are philosophy students, driven to ascertain “Why is life worth living,” and both feel immediate kinship with one another. From Zach, Owen learns to be less inhibited, learns how to interact with women, learns that “you can get away with anything, no matter how daft, if you can do it without flinching.” Together they have eye-opening bonding experiences. What begins as jocular harmony becomes disturbing, however, as Zach pushes Owen to his limits, finally reaching one with dire consequences. Inspired by a book of German philosophy (excerpts of which open every chapter of this novel, nodding toward what follows), the boys enter into a suicide pact. Zach’s reasoning is ostensibly moral, metaphysical, an attempt to circumvent nature and fate, to have control and freedom above all else, to become God. But the role of his twin sister, Vera, and their complex and ardent relationship, may be more influential than Zach is willing to admit to Owen. This Owen learns when the pact backfires and he’s left alone to navigate through the murky story that comes to light. The writing, like the characters, is smart and engrossing. Even knowing what’s to come makes the shock no less breathtaking.
A potent tale of the pull people have upon one another.