By Laurence Miall
We all know the story of Meursault, a French Algerian who, upon learning of his mother’s death, returns home for her funeral. The funeral leaves him unmoved, but he subsequently gets involved in a spree of sex and violence that lands him on death row.
Blind Spot isn’t a cover version of L’Étranger, but you can still hear Camus playing in the background. Luke loses both of his parents when their car is struck by a train, and so returns to his childhood home of Edmonton to wind up their affairs with the help of his sister. He does not cry at the funeral, finding the service to be full of anonymous banality, the bodies tucked away “as if in a warehouse.” And in any event, as flashbacks make clear, he was a less than model son, and had been estranged from both parents for years. He doesn’t care much now that they’re dead.
Much like Meursault, Luke is a “lone wolf,” someone dangerously unattached to anyone. Discovery of an extramarital affair his mother was carrying on only sours him against his parents more. He falls out with his sister, quits his job, breaks up with his girlfriend (who he was bored with anyway), and starts a rocky relationship with a grad student he seems to only want to use as a sounding board. It’s clear to everyone else what his problems are – primarily that he’s a selfish jerk – but his own failings remain a rather large blind spot.
And so the plot goes “lurching toward a crisis,” but one less spectacular than Camus’s. We don’t execute amoralists anymore. Luke is a failed bourgeois anti-hero, spiralling into a career of middling solipsism.
The first person narrator who unconsciously gives himself away is a tricky device to handle, but in his first novel Laurence Miall handles the job with surprising skill. Luke comes across as a pathetic figure even in his self-pity, and his sense of generational angst, inability to experience happiness in anything, and ironic flashes of self-awareness are nicely drawn. Blind Spot is the story of a minor failure, but a memorable portrait of that type, made all the more powerful by its honesty and restraint.
Review first published in Quill & Quire, October 2014.