My mom is an unrepentant fast-forwarder. Any movie montage, car chase, fight scene, or any extended section of a movie with no dialogue is gonna get fast-forwarded through. (I grew up thinking this was totally normal and acceptable, and have had several boyfriends go “WAIT, what are you DOING?!?!” when I started fast-forwarding through a scene I thought was skippable.)
This book, while totally lovely, could definitely have used a fast-forward button.
Danny (Dhananjaya) is from Sri Lanka, living illegally in Australia. He came on a student visa, dropped out of school, and just stayed. He doesn’t want to go home, but staying is very stressful. He works two jobs and lives in the storeroom of the grocery store (job #1). Job #2 is cleaning houses. He knows the woman in house #5 was having an affair with the man in house #6. When she’s murdered one day, Danny first suspects the husband but then quickly decides that it was the boyfriend (based on some evidence he hears on the news). For the rest of this day-long book, Danny struggles with what to do. He feels compelled to report his suspicions to the police, knowing that likely no one else even knows about the boyfriend, but if he does, he’ll also be outing himself as illegal.
This is a very good setup! I liked Danny! However, his ethical dilemma goes into excruciating detail as he walks around Sydney. There are no chapters; the book is broken up into times. 11:52 a.m., Danny gets on the bus. 12:11 p.m., Danny wishes he had money for a cup of coffee. He wanders and thinks, sits and thinks, cleans and thinks. In 10-minute chunks. It’s a lot. I wished for a fast-forward button.
The writing is lovely, and I liked getting to know Danny: faking veganism to find a girlfriend on VeggieDate.com, his history with the murdered woman and her lover, the different aspects of the harrowing immigrant experience: “Easiest thing in the world, becoming invisible to white people, who don’t see you anyway; but the hardest thing is becoming invisible to brown people, who will see you no matter what.”
The book did drag a little for me (like I’m sure the long day did for Danny), but I’m glad I read it.