Frank Mackey is a man who has purposely avoided his family for years. He ran away as a teenager and never looked back. When he gets a call from the one sister he speaks to telling him that information regarding his long lost girlfriend, Rosie Daly, has surfaced, he doesn’t know if he should run to his family or run further away. A man who has gone to extraordinary efforts to stay away from his family, he soon finds himself back home in Faithful Place; a neighborhood full of people with long memories and people that doesn’t easily offer forgiveness. After 22 years of trying to forget Rosie, his childhood, and in some ways his own family, he’s back home fighting with his mother and siblings, and thinking of ways to once more run away. When a favorite brother dies, and Frank’s only daughter is drug into the mess, he begins to realize just how deep he’s in.
The character of Frank Mackey was in The Likeness, French’s second book, but he’s much more intense in Faithful Place. His family and childhood home can never be described as a happy or content place and illustrate clearly just how much he’s managed to escape over the years and reinforce his actions, in his mind anyway. His very rosy memories of his missing girlfriend, which were buried deep by the years, come back full force and with his teenage romance memories come buried family memories, and he starts to drown in life.
Tana French is an amazing writer and I’ve started telling everyone I know they need to read her books. True story. In fact, when possible, I’ve shared my copies with anyone willing to read them. And that has been a benefit to me. You see, this was a borrowed book. I shared In The Woods and The Likeness with a co-worker and he went out and bought Faithful Place and gave it to me when he was done. He also plans on picking up Broken Harbor and promised to lend me that too. Sharing just works out in your favor some days.
French writes stories you don’t want to put down. She’s great at twists and turns, but I did figure out the killer early on in this one. I promised my co-worker I wouldn’t read ahead to find out who the killer was which was incredibly hard for me not to do. I ended up in his office asking questions instead. I can guarantee he won’t me ask me to promise that again. Anyway, he ended up telling me I had the right person but I think he was annoyed I figured it out. But, I think it was meant to be seen by the reader. You see, it was Frank that needed to work it out not the reader. You see him trying to do just that and I wanted to yell at him and that’s where French is so good. She brings the reader into the story and you end up investing so much in the characters and story that it’s draining but all in a good way. I love books that leave me feeling that way in the end. Reading should be an experience.
If you’re curious, my thoughts on French’s first two books In the Woods and The Likeness.
By Tana French
The City & The City
The City & The City
By China Miéville
In the far reaches of Europe, the citizens of two cities strive to unsee each other. The cities, Beszel and Ul Qoma, are crosshatched sister cities divided for and by political reasons which even it’s own citizens cannot always understand.
When a woman turns up dead in Beszel, Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad is called in to investigate. The young woman turns out to be a foreigner studying in Ul Qoma. When he cannot take the case any further without causing an incident that might give him reason to see someone in the other city, he tries to turn the case over to Breach, the agency that deals with crimes that cross city lines. When his request is rejected, he is ordered to cross into Ul Qoma to investigate the murder himself. The investigation causes him to question many of his own beliefs and those of his own government.
A crime/mystery/police procedural is not part of my regular reading diet and this certainly falls into the not my normal reading fare category easily enough. What drew me to The City & The City was the invention of the two cities that are not supposed to see or acknowledge each other but exist in the same time and physical space. There are subtle differences — clothing, language, architecture — but if one were to look past these differences, they could in fact be the same place. The Breach, which is supposed to deal with infractions that involve the seeing of both cities, is interesting in that it only exists to clean up accidents or punish people who cross the border without going through proper channels. When someone is taken by the Breach, they are never heard from again and people are understanding of this because this is how things are in their cities. As they have been trained to do since childhood, they unsee it and move on with their lives. In some ways it’s frustrating because I started to wonder how the citizens of these two cities could live with this going on around them, pretending that the neighbor they can clearly see is not there because they actually live in the other city. At some point I realized that I had to let go of my annoyance with the unseeing thing and go with it.
The story does take place in modern time but these two cities seem to exist in a world all their own and the entire time I kept wondering how these two places are like they are. There is some explanation but I didn’t feel completely satisfied by it but I think Miéville wants you to feel this way about the cities. Confused by the political, societal, and legal boundaries that are Beszel and Ul Qoma. While the murder investigation pushes the plot along, the story is really about these two cities, the strangeness of their existence, and the politics surrounding them. While it took me a few pages to get into the story and understand what was supposed to be seen and unseen, it was worth it. I’m looking forward to reading another book of his that comes out the summer called Kraken. I think The City & The City was a good Miéville primer.