Book Review: The News Where You Are by Catherine O’Flynn

Title: The News Where You Are
Author: Catherine O’Flynn
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks
Publication Date: July 6, 2010
Paperback: 272 pages
ISBN: 978-0805091809
Genre: Literature, Fiction

From the Publisher:

Frank Allcroft, a television news anchor in his hometown (where he reports on hard-hitting events, like the opening of canine gyms for overweight pets), is on the verge of a mid-life crisis. Beneath his famously corny on-screen persona, Frank is haunted by loss: the mysterious hit-and-run that killed his predecessor and friend, Phil, and the ongoing demolition of his architect father’s monumental postwar buildings. And then there are the things he can’t seem to lose, no matter how hard he tries: his home, for one, on the market for years; and the nagging sense that he will never quite be the son his mother—newly ensconced in an assisted-living center—wanted.

As Frank uncovers the shocking truth behind Phil’s death, and comes to terms with his domineering father’s legacy, it is his beloved young daughter, Mo, who points him toward the future. Funny and touching, The News Where You Are is a moving exploration of what we do and don’t leave behind, proving once more that Catherine O’Flynn’s writing “shimmers with dark brilliance” (Chicago Tribune).

My Review:

Appearances can be deceiving as evidenced in Catherine O’Flynn’s novel, The News Where You Are. On the surface, the novel is about local news reporter Frank Allcroft and how his life has changed since the death of his predecessor, Phil Smethway, and to a degree it is, but that is only the surface. Frank is rethinking much of his life and his future while going through the day-to-day motions of being a good husband, father and son as well as being the best local news reporter he can muster.
Six months after Phil’s death, Frank is noticing the void left by loss. The demolition of the buildings his deceased father was the architect for, his visits to see his perpetually melancholy mother, and most concerning to his wife, Frank’s newest obsession of attending the funerals of those who have passed away, whether broadcasted or merely overlooked. To add to Frank’s firm belief that there must be something left behind after one ceases to exist, is the question of Phil’s death and how could it have been possible for it to have been an accident when the road is wide and flat? Frank is not the only one wondering about the past and leaving a mark on the world. Michael, a chum of Phil’s has found himself wandering to places that are no longer and reminiscing about the past.
O’Flynn writes several stories interwoven into one, which on the surface seem akin to midlife crises, workaday observances, and the dichotomy of the optimism of youth in Frank’s daughter Mo verses the pure melancholy of the elderly as seen in Frank’s mother Maureen. And yet, O’Flynn takes the reader far deeper into the story, beyond the everyday, even beyond the mysterious death of Phil, to a philosophical discussion, and at times, debate about life. The News Where You Are is a deeply moving, heartwarming and often witty look at life and how what matters is often the things we leave out. The characters are exceedingly realistic and one is easily drawn into the novel, fully absorbed and thinking about life and death and what is truly important in life. I would not hesitate to recommend The News Where You Are to anyone looking for a brilliantly written novel that will entertain, enlighten and make one give pause. The News Where You Are would make for an excellent discussion book.

About the Author:

Catherine O’Flynn’s debut novel, What Was Lost, won the Costa First Novel Award in 2007, was short-listed for The Guardian First Book Award, and was long-listed for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize. She lives in Birmingham, England.

I received a complimentary copy of The News Where You Are by Catherine O’Flynn from Henry Holt and Company Publishers. Receiving a copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.