Have you ever wondered whatever happened to that kid you went to school with way back when? You know- the one who always sat in the back with his head down. Not one of the “in crowd” -but not altogether ostracized either. Just sort of… there. Taking up space and air. Occasionally your mind begins to wander and you cannot help but wonder what became of him. In Background Noise by author Peter DeMarco, we are introduced to just such an individual. Readers who enjoy emotional tales which are steeped in nostalgia, may just find what they are looking for in this book.
Essentially, this novella is a compilation of short stories which follow the life of the main character, Henry. The book is divided up into ten chapters with each being a story almost all unto their own. The collection is the progression of Henry’s life from hopeful child to frustrated adult. From innocent child and victim… to social outcast and avenger. Will this series of interconnected stories hold any hope for Henry in the end? Or is he simply another example of a life gone wrong. Opportunities missed and left with nothing but a bitter taste in his mouth.
Make no mistake, this book is not for the faint of heart. There are some pretty explicit scenes and the overall tone of the work is dark and disturbing. Be that as it may, the theme is cleverly supported by easy to read prose which flows as if the reader is in the middle of an everyday conversation. Through the author’s unique technique and style, we are able to see how easily an individual can fall through the cracks in our modern day society. A wrong turn here or ill-advised adventure there. The vignettes did jump around quite a bit however, which tends to throw off the cohesiveness of the overall story. I can see how this could potentially turn off some readers.
In regards to character development, Henry is really the only player who is developed in much depth. There are a number of other minor characters in the work, but they are never really explored or allowed to grow. Unfortunately for Henry, his development is a downward spiral. He gets to the point where he has taken enough of life’s knocks and decides to hit back. While it is a sad turn of events, I find it to be entirely believable and authentic. People can really only take so much before they strike back. That is the reality of life. Henry is really not a character that I am going to forget about anytime soon. He could easily be that man we pass walking down the street who is caught up in his own thoughts and misfortunes. In essence, Henry is all around us.
Overall, I found this novella had many things going for it. The writing is crisp and has the ability to ignite emotions in the reader. It really makes us think. The somewhat disjointed nature of the stories however does deter from the natural flow.
3 out of 5 Forlorn Stars for this one! ***