By Ekta R. Garg
June 19, 2013
Rated: Borrow it
A young boy tries his best to cope with the world around him despite the drastic changes in his life. While he understands at some level that he behaves differently from most people around him, he loves his parents and younger brother and sister. Eventually, however, he finds his life’s challenges almost too much to handle. Matt Langford offers readers this premise in the well-intentioned but at times tedious novel, The Watchman.
The main story begins with 16-year-old Adam. His family has just moved to a new home in the country, and he ponders what it means to live in a new house. Once everyone gets settled in, Adam notes personality changes in his younger brother and sister as well as his parents. In the beginning the move seems to help the family, but over time the relationships between Adam and the rest of his family begin to disintegrate. Before the move Adam doesn’t question the extreme differences between him and everyone else, but now he senses that his way of handling life diverges wildly from the rest of the world. But even though Adam understands that this fundamental dissimilarity exists, he doesn’t know what to do to change or fix it. And this lack of knowledge eventually brings the situation to the unthinkable.
In an email exchange with the author, Matt Langford, he says, “The Watchman is based on my own experiences–I’ve lived and worked with people with a learning difficulty and the novel is an attempt to understand their view of the world.” Langford’s experience certainly allows him to write with expertise. Adam’s limited viewpoint filters all of the events in his life through the disability from which he suffers, and his confusion and frustration come through clearly.
Unfortunately readers only get Adam’s point of view in the book. Because of his limited understanding of the way the world works, readers, too, never get the full story. Langford gives readers glimpses into conversations between Adam’s family members and their friends, but those snippets don’t serve to fill in the plot gaps. Staying with Adam’s viewpoint through the entire story becomes exhausting by the end. The story would have provided readers with a more compelling read if Langford had offered a few chapters from the viewpoints of other characters. He makes his point well in conveying Adam’s difficulty in communicating and his challenges in dealing with the world overall, but tackling such a difficult subject without any relief may discourage a few readers from getting through the entire story.
Readers interested in The Watchman may need an extra measure of patience to make it from beginning to end. With a little bit of revision, however, The Watchman has the potential to compel its intended audience by giving voice to a narrator not usually seen in fiction.
What the ratings mean:
Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection. It’s definitely worth it!
Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.
Bypass it–Free time is precious. Don’t spend it on this book!