Quill and Quire


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by David Gilmour

“The details don’t matter,” says Sally to the narrator of David Gilmour’s new novel, as she tells him tales from her troubled past on the night she plans to kill herself. The narrator is Sally’s half-brother, 15 years her junior, and she has summoned him to her high-rise apartment to assist in her suicide. Sally was left disabled after a freak accident, and her injuries have become, as she puts it, “less and less manageable.”

True, it’s not the little details that count in Extraordinary. This is a book about Big Emotion, about taking stock at the end of one’s life. Before offing herself with an unnamed drug, Sally tells of her failed marriage, of fleeing to Mexico City after her divorce, and of the accident there that destroyed her life. She also tells stories of her two children, whose own lives have been difficult. With prose that is touching and aphoristic, Gilmour weaves the patchwork of circumstances that has brought Sally to this moment.

And yet, the details. As with other Gilmour books, Extraordinary contains elements that left me baffled. Example: Sally broke her neck at a cocktail party after tripping on a carpet and hitting her head on a fireplace. The exact nature of her injuries is not made clear, however: she’s not a quadriplegic – she appears to have full use of her arms – or a paraplegic, since she occasionally gets around on crutches. These and other nebulous details pepper the book, making for an occasionally jarring reading experience.

Gilmour is attempting to pack an emotional wallop in this book, and for the most part he succeeds. Yet there are times when Extraordinary feels undone by a lack of specificity and care.