I listened to a lot of David Ramirez when reading this book. It just fit with how I felt the writer was portraying the mood of this book. Although there were some funny parts, where I found myself quietly laughing or smiling, there was an underlying tone of sad reminiscence, remorse, regret, and the chances we have in life that we miss.
Jack Wyeth is a college grad who has done practically nothing with his life. Nothing that makes him exceptionally proud. In his college years, the highlight of his time was meeting the famous Eli Page, when Mr. Page came to perform at the school. After graduating, Jack floated from gig to gig, playing a little music, writing a couple of articles with his Journalism degree, but never planting himself anywhere. At his lowest, he is rejected by his fiancee and finds himself at a crossroads.
At about the same time, he receives a phone call from an agent looking for someone to ghostwrite a memoir of the once famous and very mysterious Eli Page. With nothing to lose, he takes the job.
He finds himself in the small, reclusive, hidden town of Galesville, where Eli resides. Most of the residents are suspicious of Eli and fingers point to him when bad things start to happen in the town. Jack finds Eli to be difficult to work with, showing signs of possible dementia, and who disappears for hours at a time every day. There is nothing in Eli’s house that shows evidence that he ever was musician, and he becomes cryptic every time Jack tries to bring up the history of his career.
With a deadline approaching, Jack works to get Eli to open up about his past and who the real Eli is. Jack comes up with a compromise: he will paint Eli’s house if he gives him two hours of interview time. The compromise backfires when Eli seems to have forgotten to agreement, so Jack starts to go to desperate measures. He finds a hidden room in Eli’s house and discovers some pieces of Eli’s life that most everyone never knew about. He wants to dig further, but doesn’t want to hurt Eli at the same time.
Jack also meets Jenny, a local artist, who also finds herself as an outcast in the town, and is curiously protective of Eli. Jack, in hopes of getting answers about Eli, befriends Jenny, but finds himself falling for the elusive girl. One thing that Belcher is good at is introspection and observation. The quotes during Jack’s thoughtful moments or during is rare, mentor times with Eli, I find, are great.
“I saw two separate women – the loyal daughter, thick skinned and responsive, and the introspective artist, sifting through the craziness all around and attempting to find order, balance and calm.”
At points, the book is a little slow. You feel like you may never find out the real story about Eli, or if there really is any story, but it all comes together towards the end, with a few twists and turns along the way.
“[People] tend to see their fears before good intentions.”
Overall, I enjoyed the originality of the book and W. B. Belcher’s writing style. I’ll definitely look for more of his books as they come along.