Little Boy Lost
By Lynn Coady
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95, 285 pages
How would you feel if you found out one day that someone you had known as a kid, someone with whom you had shared some of your worst moments and deepest secrets, had written a novel featuring a character very clearly—and unflatteringly—based on you? This is the question that is answered—not addressed, but dealt with head-on—in Lynn Coady’s fabulous novel The Antagonist.
When Gordon Rankin discovers that his college friend Adam has used his difficult adolescence as the basis for his first novel, he sets about correcting the malicious half- and untruths he sees in the manuscript, and in the process strives to explain to his former housemate and comrade how wrong his assessment was—perhaps, also, explain it to himself, and forgive some of his behaviors and some of his past.
What is truly striking about The Antagonist is not just Coady’s compassion for and understanding of her characters, but also how genuinely real they feel. The casual, angry tone of Rank’s letters to his former friend ring completely true, and serve to tell this story—at turns banal, frightening, sad and beautiful—in a powerful, engrossing way. This novel should be read.
Reviewed by Ashley McCall