Anybody Out There?
Yesterday I took my three-year-old son to the library. We had just selected a stack of books and had sat down to read them together, when over the loud-speaker a librarian’s voice announced that I was to come to the circulation desk. I assumed I had left some paper with my name on it in one of the books I had just returned, so I calmly put my son’s books down, scooped him up, and made my way to the desk.When I got there, there were two policemen waiting with the librarian, and all three of them had dour looks on their faces. I looked from one to the next, but they all seemed hesitant to tell me whatever news they had for me. It was only a moment of silence, but for an irrational space of time, I was sure that something terrible had happened to someone I love, and somehow these people knew and it was now their job to tell me. I remember thinking, “This is it. This is what it’s like to find out something horrible.”It turned out to be nothing at all. I had parked my car too closely to another car that was owned by a very pregnant lady. She couldn’t get in, so I needed to re-park my car. I was happy to do it, mostly because I felt grateful that I had somehow averted disaster.And the whole experience reminded me of a book I’m reading. The moment of certainty where you’re sure that your world is coming crashing down around you is beautifully expressed throughout the entire story of Anybody Out There? by Marion Keyes. For Keyes fans, this book is a natural progression in her series about the Walsh family daughters. Three previous books have focused on different siblings; this one takes up with Anna, the second-to-youngest “flakey” daughter. (Other books about the Walsh family include Watermelon, Rachel’s Holiday, and Angels). Anna was labeled as flakey in those other books, a branding from her sisters, and it seemed well-deserved at the time. Now, hearing from Anna’s perspective, I’m struck with two truths: 1. Anna is only a little flakey. 2. Marion Keyes is a master at both loving her characters and at writing about them objectively. Few authors are good at both.Each book has improved upon the last, and each offers a whole new view of the loveable and eccentric Walsh family. Anybody Out There? begins in Ireland, where Anna is staying with her parents and her youngest sister Helen, while recovering from a horrible accident. Soon Anna returns to her home in NYC, a city she shares with her sister Rachel. I won’t give anymore details about the story, other than this: It is a brilliant tale of love and loss, because Keyes writes it in a way that forces the reader to experience the same emotions as Anna, as she is having them. It’s at once funny and heart-breaking, and it will leave you with the hope that it’s possible to survive the worst of catastrophes and still have your personality in check.Whether or not you’ve read other books by Marion Keyes, you’ll be able to enjoy Anybody Out There? because it’s instantly relatable. Whether you’ve suffered a tragedy, or you’re like me (lucky enough to only have had a scare from time to time), this book is one to enjoy, learn from, cry over, and laugh at. How many books offer such promise? Read it – you won’t be sorry.