Review #23: Untouchable by Scott O’Connor

Untouchable is the coming-to-grips story of David Darby, the single father of 12 year old Whitley. Both Darby and Whitley (aka “The Kid”) have been trying to cope for the last year with the death of Darby’s wife/The Kid’s mom. Darby works as part of the cleanup crew for trauma sites (imagine the people who come in when the CSI guys are done). He is doing his best to hold his little family together, but he is always working, doesn’t know how to cook, and is clueless about his son’s troubles. The Kid doesn’t believe that his mom is dead, and has sworn a “Covenant” to try and get her back (under the guidance of his one friend, the religious Matthew). I won’t spoil what his Covenant is, since it’s not clear for quite a few chapters and makes for a very touching reveal. The Kid is tortured daily at school, and is terrified that his own father believes the awful things the others kids say about him (he has bad breath and body odor, for example). I call this a coming-to-grips story, rather than a coming-of-age story, since really Darby and The Kid are really struggling with being a family with just the two of them. They are both clueless and really sad.

This genre (adult literary fiction I guess) is a bit out of my wheelhouse. I lean more towards thrillers, so I kept expecting something dramatic to suddenly happen. The story slowly unfolds in a beautiful and striking manner. I definitely felt emotionally bonded with The Kid; my heart breaking at some of the less obvious bullying. Darby was a bit harder to connect to. He finds himself trying to connect with the various trauma scenes by taking pieces. He is doing this in some bizarre attempt to reconcile his death, and it’s truly unclear how this could possibly helpful until the end.

I borrowed this on Kindle, so there were some odd issues with formatting. The setting or time would frequently change with no page or line breaks, so it was a bit difficult to keep my bearings throughout. I also found some of O’Connor’s writing style a bit repetitive. He would frequently repeat phrases in the same paragraph, to make a point I imagine. I found it distracting, but overall the writing was strong. I enjoyed this book and would certainly read more by this author.