Liam O’Neal, the protagonist of Davis’ debut novel, has a very special gift: he can delve into the consciousnesses of people who are locked in comas—and sometimes bring them out of them.
The Irish protagonist has his gift because of childhood traumas, both physical—a bullet, still in his brain—and psychological—due to the shock of seeing his father, mother, and brother murdered by Irish Republican Army terrorists in 1980. In 2013, Liam, now in his 40s, lives in Bay Village, New Hampshire, and makes a living repairing boats. He has a good friend, Father Martin, his mentor from orphanage days, who urges him to take some coma cases. One is little Sarah Williams, who fell through the ice in a nearby pond; she was under so long that she’s since been declared brain dead. Another is Thomas McIntyre, who ran into a street and was struck by a car in a hit-and-run. Liam takes both cases, and his journeys into their minds are terrifying. He backs off of Sarah’s case, badly shaken, when it hits too close to home, but in Thomas’ case, he slowly earns the lad’s trust as he realizes that the young man blames himself for his parents’ estrangement. Liam protests that he’s no miracle worker, but Davis shows him to be a good man with an innate sensitivity and resourcefulness (“gift” aside) that usually pull him and his “patients” through. The book’s diction and phrasing are sometimes stilted and awkward (“an open window with a screen to prevent bugs”; “unmade mattresses”). However, Davis handles the coma sections well, truly pulling readers into these unconscious realities, these liminal states. He also does a very good job of toggling between the past and the present—his flashbacks are almost seamless. Although the author protests in a preface that he has no real expertise in medicine or boat repair, his attention to detail will persuade readers otherwise and anchor them in his story’s “real” world.
Despite this entry’s occasional flaws, readers will welcome more books in this series.