This novel is a heart-breaking and difficult one to read given the subject matter.
Set in the fifties, a mother lives alone with her two sons, Lawrence who is ten and Paul, eight. They live in a small Victorian town and Lawrence is a bright young student while Paul is sporty. When their long-lost uncle comes to visit, their mother brightens up and this stranger introduces vitality to their world. However, things change quickly when the uncle sexually abuses young Lawrence, changing his life forever.
Laguna takes us on a journey through Lawrence’s life which becomes crippled and stagnant following the abuse. He develops an horrific stutter and so is prevented from communicating into his adulthood. He is treated as mentally disabled because of the stutter and his withdrawal from his brother and everyone around him, sends no real alarm bells.
The only light for Lawrence is his artwork which becomes his lifeline as an isolated and shunned adult. He lives for it but he again is ostracised by everyone around him except for his brother Paul who is frustrated yet still cares and looks out for him.
Laguna’s writing is wonderful as always and I will always read anything she writes. However this novel is a tough read, uncomfortable and tragic. It’s not for everyone.