Author: Jessie Cole
Jessie Cole has written a touching and often painful debut novel about human nature, growing up, small towns and the way that life can change in an instant.
Darkness on the edge of town explores the darkest parts of all of us, the parts we often don’t discuss so leave us feeling isolated and alone. Often it’s the things that make us different that also make us the same because we are all different, even though it’s in different ways, and that’s what makes us not so different after all.
Vincent lives on the outskirts of a small town with his teenage daughter. The house is rented and I get the feeling it’s aged and becoming dilapidated; the yard and the interior is cobbled together with junk Vincent has collected over the years, often from the dump. Where most people see junk Vincent sees potential, and according to his teenage daughter Gemma that extends to people as well.
And I have just had the biggest light bulb moment about this but I am not going to go into that because then I would have to issue a spoiler alert and that’s not what I’m about.
One night as Vincent heads home from work he comes across the scene of an accident on the road just outside of his house, the young driver is suffering severe shock and attaches herself to Vincent. What else is he to do but try to help?
The novel is told by Vincent and his sixteen year old daughter Gemma, both in the first person but with no identifier at the beginning of the chapter to let us know who’s eyes we’re watching through. This took a bit of getting used to and it wasn’t always immediately apparent who was writing the chapter.
Gemma is quite wise for her years and has seen more than a lot of people her age, at the same time she seems a little naive and young for her age. It’s a good mix and makes her more endearing. There is a lot more to her than meets the eye.
Vincent is a helper, a fixer, an ordinary man with delusions of knight in shining armourness. He attracts troubled and/or damaged damsels and he doesn’t seem to recognise the pattern but he just wants to make everything all better for everyone and that’s not always a feasible option. Especially in a small town where everyone knows you, and everyone talks.
It is very easy for small town gossip to go the way of Chinese whispers and even if the story started out correct there’s no guarantee how long it will stay that way. In the way of small towns everywhere the story gets twisted and changed and what starts as small town gossip fast escalates into something that could end up in quite a dangerous situation.
Jessie Cole tackles quite a few emotional and controversial issues that are often left in the darkened recesses where no-one has to be confronted by the pain and the aftermath. Issues like domestic violence, broken homes, teenage sexuality and the numbness of losing a loved one.
This book pulled me in and held me hostage until I could find out what was going to happen next. The ending was a good fit with the story, I think, but it still left me a little disappointed because it’s not the way I would have liked it to end.
Jessie Cole says that this whole story hit her in a flash and she doesn’t know if it will ever happen for her again, well I can’t answer that either but I will certainly be keeping my eye out to find out.