Tim and Bill have lived comfortable lives, both with an air of modest success and financial stability behind them. They live slowly and comfortably, each spending the same day every week sat by an isolated spot of river, fishing. They’re really there for the calm, and as such, for years, not a word passes between them, until one day, one spots the other quietly crying, and they begin, after all those years of comfortable silence, to talk. The moment changes their lives. It turns out the skills the two share–Tim’s journey as a musician with a single smash hit he hates, and Bill’s as a private creator of spectacular puppets–have a natural intersect. The two decide to explore that overlap, and draw in a cast of colorful characters–from sensitive bouncer Raymond and his hippie mother, Rainbow, to a homeless woman, Sue, and Bill’s talented puppeteer and puppet tailor daughter, Rachel. As is customary, the group face a host of issues: Sue compliments agoraphobic Rachel, who is finally able to work towards overcoming her illness. Bill and Rachel house Sue, Raymond finds a hidden talent in which he really thrives, and Tim is able to create in a way that establishes his more meaningful music in precedence to his throwaway pop smash. The group, in short, fit naturally together, and have a way of finding wacky adventure along the way that keeps this surreal narrative weaving. They pass through tales of fear of sausages (a genuine thing, apparently), media storms and, eventually, right back to where it all started (or did it?).
Very much in the vein of the recent bout of popular Scandinavian fiction (fans of the likes of A Man Called Ove and The Hundred-Year Old Man will love the offbeat style here), Nemo James’ A SINGLE TEAR succeeds in being both silly and profound, witty and meaningful, and feels genuinely, effortlessly charming. Character led, and about life’s journeys and purpose, readers are given varied perspectives and sweeping but gloriously nuanced narratives. The only complaint here–and it’s a very minor one–is that the ultimate ‘product’ at the heart of the success story, revealed in full towards the end, doesn’t convince as being all that ‘world changing’, in contrast to the way it’s portrayed. Still, we’re nit-picking. “It all seems so contrived” comes the knowing kicker in the final few pages. And in truth, as a book, the plot does seem just a touch convenient. The thing is, the whole thing is so effortlessly bewitching and charismatic, readers should be more than happy to suspend their disbelief.
A SINGLE TEAR is an intelligent and character-led tale of change and collaboration. Based around two formerly reclusive groups, the story unfolds into an unlikely tale of global success in the arts that is incredibly and effortlessly charming.
~James Hendicott for IndieReader