The Man in the Window by Jon Cohen features a cast of characters all living in one small town with a monster. Of course, Louis isn't really a monster, but some of his neighbors have begun to think of him that way. As a teenager, Louis was terribly burned in a fire that caused his face to become unrecognizable. His mother and father, Atlas and Grace have spent the last sixteen years caring for him, but Louis has become a recluse. He is never without his hat and purple scarf even at home and he almost never leaves the house. Iris, a nurse that will soon be meeting Louis, thinks of herself as a kind of monster. What most people would likely interpret as unattractive she deems repulsive, but she refuses to let it stop her. She is a successful nurse and she enjoys her work. She is fairly new to town, having moved into her father's home to care for him after the passing of her mother and so knows nothing of the man in the window.
I was really excited about this book for the first several chapters. I hadn't gotten very far into it before I started thinking about who on my Christmas list needed to receive their own copy. The book begins with Atlas's death. It happens rather early so I hope that isn't too much of a spoiler for you. One of the first things I loved so much about this book was that Gracie refused to provide "appropriate" clothing to the funeral director for her husband. Instead she insisted her husband be dressed in his favorite clothes- "a flannel work shirt, a pair of corduroys thin at the knees, gray cotton socks, and an old pair of Hush Puppies." When pressed about it Gracie had this to say: "My husband, I guarantee you, Mr. Rose, does not wish to travel through eternity in a necktie and a pair of shiny shoes pressing on his bunions." I adore that this character would think of such a thing. She loved her husband so much that she didn't want him to be uncomfortable, even in death. Reflecting on their marriage, Gracie recalled the many times Atlas would tell her, "Gracie, I hope to God I go before you do." He simply could not stand to live without her by his side. Gracie's response was "Atlas, neither of us is going to go. They make special allowances for people like us." I love that.
The storytelling in the first half of the book had me fascinated, but it languished in the middle. It became slow and lost much of it's spark. It always makes me sad when a book doesn't turn out to be as good as I had hoped it would be. Just near the end, it picked up pace and I was able to enjoy it again, but it never did get back to what it was in the beginning.