Here's an intriguing debut novel to add to your "Coming Soon" list. Out Backward by Ross Raisin is being released by Harper Collins Canada on June 24/08.
Sam Marsdyke is an odd young man. He lives on the family sheep farm in Yorkshire with his angry, taciturn father and his docile mother. He no longer attends school, having been told to leave after an "incident" involving a female student. No charges were pressed.
"Southerners" are buying up the local properties around the Marsdyke farm. The town dynamic is changing. Old pubs and shops are falling by the wayside to make way for 'new and better'. When a 'town' family buys the farm next door, Sam is warned off by his father. " And you'll let them alone 'an all. They've a daughter".
Sam has limited social skills, but an active imagination. Too active. He is a lonely young man, but frightening as well. He brings a basket of mushrooms to the new neighbours, but after giving them to the family, he skulks around their windows, spying on them and inventing situations and dialogue. He becomes fixated on the young daughter of the family. He sits for hours on the hills, watching their house with only his dogs and sheep for companions.
We feel sorry for Sam and his limited life, but repelled by his vindictive thoughts and the frightening actions that sometimes follow, as with his elderly neighbour Delton.
Raisin has endowed Sam with a rich and full Yorkshire vocabulary, which greatly adds to the Sam's character development.
Sam grasps desperately at any interactions with Jo the neighbour girl, building upon them in his mind. For her part, we wonder is she using him to create trouble with her parents or is she actually interested in him as a person? She is a rebellious girl and we are alternatively hopeful that she will see the good in Sam, angry that she may be taking advantage of him and worried that she should not be around the unpredictable Sam.
For all his misguided attempts at normalcy that end badly, we still want to cheer for Sam. His heart seems to be in the right place, but his mind is not there with it.
Jo - the girl- decides to run away from home and asks Sam to go with her. Sam is thrilled and off they go. However the journey does not go as planned for either one. Sam has great plans for the two of them and only wants to look after Jo, but he quickly runs off track. Jo has had enough and wants to go home, but Sam won't let her.
Is Sam as daft as he lets on, or is he mad, with moments of lucidity? Has he been taken advantage of or has he engineered his own downfall?
I won't spoil the ending, but I was thinking of the book and it's characters long after I finished it. Raisin has painted a portrait of a young man that is both appealing and unsettling at the same time.
I look forward the the next offering from this new author.