The Many, by Wyl Menmuir, is an unsettling tale exploring the impact of loss and the process by which individuals cope, or not, when the foundations they rely on in life are swept away.
Timothy Buchanan buys a house, sight unseen, in an isolated coastal village where he and his girlfriend, Lauren, once stayed. He is aware that the property has lain empty for ten years and is in need of renovation. On arrival he questions the wisdom of taking on such a daunting project but sets about the required refurbishment that Lauren may join him.
The villagers see the smoke rising from the chimney in Perran’s old place. They watch the incomer as he walks by, pausing their conversations until he is out of earshot. Gossip is rife, memories are dredged.
Ethan is one of just a handful of fishermen still working the polluted coastline. Their designated waters are hemmed in by a line of rusting container ships, anchored by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. The contaminated catches they occasionally land are bought in full, with papers signed to ensure none of the damaged fish are retained.
Ethan is perturbed by Timothy’s arrival. He retains a guilt over Perran’s death. When he accedes to Timothy’s request to take him out to sea his peers accept this presence on Ethan’s boat and Timothy becomes a kind of talisman. There remains a code of silence when he starts to ask questions about the previous resident of his cottage. He is aware of the animosity generated but forges on with devastating results.
The sparse prose is dark and intense, strikingly written with a haunting quality that sends shivers through the soul. As the story progresses the reader comes to understand why Timothy is there.
There are cracks in the surface of everything, viscerally present. This tale whispers its warnings. The anguish of grief is palpable.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Salt.