Review of Books, March 2000
Suicide is ‘not a kind thing to do . . . when your friend killed
himself, the meaning of it all just fell through your hands like mist
between your fingers’. Max’s best friend Lou is dead, by choice,
at 17 and Max is lost and confused at his act and at the loss of friendship.
How he tries to make sense of this is the territory traversed by this
book. Max finds himself on an increasingly self-destructive trail of confrontation
with the police and taking dangerous risks kayaking. His graffiti forays
offer a kind of metaphysical consolation but even the significance of
what he writes is elusive. Dave, his loving father, struggles to understand
and support him; an understanding school principal cuts him some slack
and two friends, the beautiful Mai and the hermit Nick, allows him space
for confession and catharsis of sorts. But when he tests his own mortality,
there is little they can do. He is on his own.
While the central impetus for this book is suicide, what it explores is
the meaning of friendship, and how a young person’s sense of self
and stability may be gently and gradually healed in the wake of such a
disturbing act. Immediately readable, lyrical and allusive, the novel
is free of any didacticism as Max works through and around his feelings
to a still place where Lou is present and welcome.