STARRED REVIEW
October 03, 2017

A community in pieces

By Jon McGregor

Come what may, life goes on. And on. And on. That’s the hauntingly real premise of Jon McGregor’s fascinating new novel, Reservoir 13.

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Come what may, life goes on. And on. And on. That’s the hauntingly real premise of Jon McGregor’s fascinating new novel, Reservoir 13.

After a young girl—Rebecca or Becky or Bex Shaw—goes missing on New Year’s Eve on the frozen moors of an unnamed English village, the community members each must deal with her loss in their own way. Some mourn longer than others. Some have constant dreams and fears of what may have befallen her. Others hold onto the slimmest of hopes that she will be found safe and sound. Most manage to let go and move on, even though the hurt of that day always remains. McGregor chronicles it all over a period of 13 long, tiresome years.

Unlike most novels that delve closely into the life of a main protagonist, McGregor distances the reader in a more omniscient fashion, picking and choosing whom to look in on and when. Sharing only fleeting glimpses of their lives like an unattached observer, McGregor darts in and out of the lives of his characters in seemingly random fashion. Chapters are divided into years, years into quick flashes of months or days—moments in time all indelibly etched into the fabric of the community, into the souls of the people therein, and into the hearts and minds of readers.

Despite the unusual style—no direct dialogue and no paragraph breaks here—McGregor’s lyrical prose and sense of detail totally immerse the reader. Reaching the end of a chapter is like coming up for a brief gulp of air before diving in to see what happens next.

The novel was longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary award, though it was edged off the shortlist. McGregor also made the longlist in 2002 with his debut novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things.

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Reservoir 13

Reservoir 13

By Jon McGregor
Catapult
ISBN 9781936787708

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