In the Winter of 2001, 29-year-0ld Walt Steadman survives a shooting in his favorite Boston Cafe that leaves four people dead. In the aftermath, Walt forms two new relationships: one with Ginger Newton, a privileged, reckless, Harvard undergraduate who is interviewing women about their lives for a book called Girls I Know, and the other with 11-year-old Mercedes Bittles, whose parents were killed in the restaurant. Wounded but resilient, all three must deal with loss and grief and the consequences that come when their lives change in unexpected ways.
Douglas Trevor has a fantastic writing style. Even during the slow parts of the book, I found myself appreciating the writing itself. It reads like Trevor chose the most beautiful yet precise language for each moment, yet it flows effortlessly. He could write about paint drying I think and make it sound fascinating.
With that said, the story itself was fascinating all on its own. Walt is kind of a dull guy who is afraid of his own shadow, but then he experiences a life-altering experience when he is the sole survivor of a restaurant shooting by a disgruntled ex-employee who is a member of the MS-13 gang. He learns to grow and to figure out who he is thanks to Mercedes, the daughter of the two slain owners of the restaurant, and Ginger, whom he meets when she moves into the building for which he is the superintendent.
There are tons of literary and musical references throughout the book, mainly because Walt's dissertation is about the poet, Robert Lowell, and he reads a lot in Norton Anthology of Poetry. I have included some references below. It is almost like a Murakami novel with all the references.
Literary References: Wyatt’s “They Flee From Me”, Andrew Marvell’s “The Garden”, Louise Gluck’s “The Garden”, Theodore Roethke’s “I Knew a Woman”, Elizabeth Bishop, Lowell, The Sentences of Peter Lombard, Aquinas, Norton Anthology of Poetry, Lord Weary’s Castle by Lowell,
Music References: Stanley Turrentine’s That’s Where It’s At, Sonny Clark, Wynton Marsalis, Jon Faddis, Art Pepper’s Living Legend
"You can't let the days go by; we have very little time in this world." pg. 9
"You're a little sneaky, aren't you, Walt Steadman? You act like you're an open book, but some pages you don't want anybody to read." pg. 74
"Her momma always said you have to try to see things like other people did, that the dark spirits grew stronger when everyone just assumed the way they saw the world was the way everyone else did." pg. 213