The Outcast is a novel we’re publishing in Spring 2008, and an advance reading copy was thrust into my hands by our Vice President of Marketing who could not stop raving about it. And because there is never a shortage of things to read, and never enough time to read everything, it always helps when a book is heavily endorsed by a colleague whose taste you trust. Without further delay, I began reading it on a TTC bus. Now normally, I hate starting a new book on public transit because I’m never fully focused (it’s much better when I’m at home in my pajamas with a glass of wine), but there I was on the King Street route hooked from page one and wanting to skip out of work to keep reading.
There is something about Lewis Aldridge (the outcast) that solicited my full sympathy. When we first meet him he has just been released from prison, a hardened soul at the age of nineteen. But the author, Sadie Jones, then takes the reader backwards in time, to tell the story of what happened to Lewis’s family, how he lost his childhood, how he became an outcast. In completely unsentimental ways, I came to understand – and forgive – Lewis outright, which says a lot about the author’s talents since Lewis is disastrously flawed.
But it’s not just Lewis who has become etched into my mind. His father, try as he might, cannot father; his step-mother, Alice, learns to cope with life’s disappointments in heartbreakingly self-destructive ways; and young Kit Carmichael, loves Lewis unconditionally, but at a huge cost – these are all characters I came to care about deeply.
The Outcast is deceptive in its simply written style. In fact, it is a psychologically astute portrait of a group of people on the verge of implosion, all outcasts in their own way. This is no ordinary story. It is extraordinary in every way, and I hope you will be as hooked as I was – even on public transit!