Young Malcolm Orange feels he’s disappearing. He’s covered in holes and anxious about them letting water in so he sticks plasters on some of the bigger ones. He’s suffered from chicken pox in the past but this is something much bigger and he has no idea how to stop himself from from disappearing completely.
Malcolm has had quite the life of it. He’s been constantly jolted about America in the back of his father’s vehicle every time he thinks the time is right to move on and try and strike gold in another place. His family is dwindling away and all he’s got left is a feckless father and his mother and younger brother. It has been a desperate childhood for Malcolm and he keeps a matchbox containing scabs and thinks of the things God has taken away from him. His mother kisses the bathroom door while Malcolm is in it rather than kissing her son directly.
The road leads them to the Baptist Retirement Village in Portland, where his father finally abandons them. Here, they meet a magnificent range of elderly characters bursting with life and holding on to their own remaining memories. One of the finest is Cunningham Holt, he’s lost his eyesight but has a knack for predicting the future and is very eager to help people when he can. He’s glad to be of use to Malcolm and sees a chance for redemption in Malcolm’s new friend, Soren James Blue, a young lady that’s no stranger to burglary and arson.
The Baptist Retirement Village is home to a wonderful project, The People’s Committee for Remembering Songs. This was set up after music was cruelly banned in order to preserve the memory of music in the minds of the music. Bob Dylan, Elton John and even Sting are preserved for the future in the face of this cruel ban. I loved these descriptions of people ensuring that the cruel boss of the retirement village wasn’t going to grind them down and deprive them of something they value so deeply.
Jan Carson has created a wonderful story with a wealth of memorable characters. We even have a talking cat and flying people present in this wonderfully offbeat tale of a young man coming to terms with everything life has thrown at him and trying to ensure his survival with the help of his new cohorts. It’s a superbly entertaining read with a world of wit and charm.