Verdict: Full of interesting and odd characters, with a distinctive narrative voice.
In The Twenty and One Nights, two dysfunctional families try to cope with work, bills, divorce, and teenage maladjustment. But the book is not as depressing as that summary might suggest, largely because of the interesting characters that people it, especially Hestor, the quirky narrator.
Hester has recently left her husband, for reasons not at first explained, and she and her two children have moved in with Carrie and her two children. The story opens with Ned, Carrie’s ex-husband, wandering in from the train. He fell asleep, he explains. The conductor called the old stop, and out of force of habit he’s gotten off at the old stop.
Ned drinks too much and stays the night, avoiding his depressed wife, Em. Next day he decides he is too sick to go home and Hester gives him her room. He stays for a while, courting Hester from his sick bed, while she searches for work and cares for the children. Carrie has a regular job and a couple of affairs that take up most of her time. The house just about fits them all, with an extra room for a lodger to help pay the rent.
The story unfolds, day by day, vignette by vignette, like the lives of the women and their children. More characters enter their lives, each more quirky than the last, and each deftly drawn. These characters almost overwhelm the story as what at first seems like a subplot eventually becomes the defining moment of the story.
Reviewed by Brid Nowlan for IndieReader