"The human soul longs for comfort in times of grief."
Not so much mystery as fractured journey through loss and emotional disintegration, Gray's novel is a pastiche of impressions, from the day-to-day ruminations of former dentist, David, on what may or may not have happened to his wife, Franny, and David's encounters with the world outside his home. Living in a small Ohio town, David no longer practices his profession, hiding from the world in a dilapidated house filled with the detritus of other lives, the place more unlivable by the day as the environment reflects the wretched state of David's mind. The cause of Franny's demise is in question as the origin of a series of threatening notes David finds hidden in unlikely places, though only two people are potential sources for either. Aside from a detective, a regression therapist whose office is in David's wasp-infested garage and the spontaneous visits of one of Franny's coworkers, the landscape is small, a withering confusion of peripheral characters and events.
Without direction, the novel is a collection of short chapters, each indicating another phase of David's memory or ideation, the only real substance to be found in the honey-combed meanderings of a deeply unsympathetic character, the author describing in agonizing detail the filth and squalor of his environment. Aside from the occasional reality-based character, there is little to like in this story, where years of debris lurk behind a basement door, ants march in formation along the pillow of a protagonist burrowing toward sleep under his wife's coat and layers of dental records, Franny's ashes are silent testimony and any excursion outdoors is a welcome relief from the nightmare evolving on the pages. A portrait of grief, confusion and mental fragmentation is filled with minute horrors, an ugly little tale bereft of redemption. Luan Gaines/2012.