There was a line in When Will There Be Good News?, the latest book by novelist Kate Atkinson, which jumped out at me when I came across it. I wrote it down because if nothing else I thought it was a hell of a good quote.
The line is this:"A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen"
What I did not realize at the time was that it was also a clue, the solution to the puzzle that is this book.
For the first 100 pages or so of the book the reader is hit with stories of seemingly unrelated tragedies.
There is Dr. Joanna Hunter, who was the sole survivor when her family (mother, brother, sister, even dog) were killed by a man. Now the man who killed them has been released from prison And there are others who have been victims of awful crimes and one or more afraid of people, sometimes relatives, expected to return to commit more violent crimes.
Two things struck this reader, and I bet many other readers, while reading this book. One is that the writing of a higher caliber than most writers. Imagine if Ian McEwan wrote thrillers and you're pretty close to the mark. For proof you can read the first chapter here.
Or, as the New York Times puts it,
Fact: Atkinson doesn't write typical crime novels, but literary hybrids.
"Exhibit A: Unlike Agatha Christie's briskly plotted whodunits, Atkinson's thrillers unfold leisurely. In this case, chapters provide alternating points of view, which, while intimately acquainting us with each character's back story, can at times derail the novel's narrative momentum.
The second point is how do these stories all connect? Or, put another way, the reader is wondering "This writer is going to have to be pretty damn amazing to connect all these plotlines."
Well, I am happy to report she is better at weaving and connecting those lines that Charlotte, that spider who spun those wonderful webs in Charlotte's Web.
How good is this book? Normally lately I only read new books, since 90 percent of the time I am interviewing the author of his new release. This time I was so impressed, though, that I have started to read two earlier books by Atkinson, which include one or more of the same characters.