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The News Where You Are [Paperback]

Catherine O'Flynn
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't grab me like her first novel... Sept. 17 2010
By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I really enjoyed Catherine O'Flynn's debut novel What Was Lost (my review) and was looking forward to her second - The News Where You Are.

Frank is a television news presenter. Viewers enjoy him, but it is the bad puns and jokes (penned by odd duck Cyril - inherited from former presenter and star Phil) that are the appeal for many of the viewers. He lives in a house that he's having trouble selling as it's removed from everything. He loves his wife Andrea who loves him just as much. They have a young daughter Mo who is a breath of fresh air with her sunny view and outlook. Frank's mother Maureen lives in a Seniors development and can only seem to see the worst in everything. Frank questions the verdict of accidental death in Phil's case and does some investigating on his own.

Back cover blurbs include the phrases 'brilliantly funny and heartbreakingly sad and spirited literary mystery". I must say I really didn't find the book funny at all. I did find sadness though. Frank is a multi leveled character. By turns he seems lost, but he's a fantastic father, devoted son and faithful friend. Yet is all seems to be done with a sense of obligation. Frank's father was an architect and the demolition of many of his buildings seems to be an allegory for the breaking down of many barriers in Frank's life, past and present. O'Flynn uses architecture and descriptions of same to mirror many characters' moods and feelings.

The character of Mo stole the show for this reader. Her determined attempts to cheer up her grandmother, her vibrant imagination and her love of life and everything in it were a high point for me.

The 'spirited mystery' wasn't there for this reader.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Thoughtful, Amusing and Aching Book About Loss ... With A Mystery Too July 23 2010
By Jennifer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I was a big fan of O'Flynn's debut novel, What Was Lost, so I eagerly anticipated her second novel. Although not quite as satisfying as What Was Lost, The News Where You Are was a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying read--combining humor with affecting examinations into the nature of loss.

Loss is a major theme in this book, as it was with her first novel. In this book, our "hero" Frank Allcroft is dealing with loss on all sorts of levels--the loss of his architect father's buildings (which are being knocked down one by one) and the loss of his friend and colleague Phil (who died in a never solved hit-and-run accident). As he shuffles through life, shackled with his corny on-air persona and a gentle loserish air he can't seem to shed (even with his own wife), Frank decides to investigate Phil's death on his own--seeking answers about why the vibrant and successful Phil made some strange phone calls to Frank shortly before his death and the connection between Phil and an elderly man found dead on park bench. Interspersed with this storyline is Frank's memories of his childhood--populated by his workaholic father and unhappy mother. As his father's buildings are demolished one by one, Frank realizes he must come to terms with his own past if he is to have a rewarding future.

As in What Was Lost, buildings and the physical surroundings of Birmingham play a large part in the story--becoming almost characters themselves. Like the Green Oaks Shopping Center in What Was Lost, buildings, new subdivisions and the assisted-living center become part of the story--given as much attention by O'Flynn as her human characters. O'Flynn tends to anthropomorphize cities, buildings and houses--imbuing them with meaning and personalities. I personally enjoy this aspect of O'Flynn's books; it makes for interesting reading.

"That's what I liked about this city."
"What? That it's crap and everything fails?"
"No. That it has these ridiculous dreams, that it always tries to reinvent itself, to be the city of the future, but then always changes its minds about what the future should be. I love the little glimpses you catch of the old dreams, the old ideas of what Utopia should be. I think if you get rid of the, no matter how embarrassing or naive they are, then you lose something essential about the place."

I think O'Flynn's greatest talent lies in the way she is able to capture with pinpoint accuracy and humor all the little foibles and interior conversations we all have with ourselves but rarely share. I saw so much of myself in Frank as I read--from his need to be polite causing him to be enmeshed in unwanted relationships to his sense of doubt in his own abilities. Consider this excerpt:

The motorway was quiet, but he stayed in the slow lane tucked behind a beaten-up van traveling at fifty. Frank secretly held a strong suspicion that he should not be in charge of a vehicle after dark. On city streets all was fine, but on country lanes or unlit stretches of motorway he was alarmed at the sullen lack of communication between his eyes and his brain. Something had gone wrong between them in the last year or two and now the brain would periodically choose to ignore or willfully misinterpret visual input. The familiar patterns of taillights, road signs and oncoming headlights had broken down into free-form floating abstract projections through which Frank hurtled wide-eyed on leather upholstery. At times he mistook the retreating taillights of the car ahead for headlights coming toward him, at others he would mistake reflections on his side window for vehicles swerving into his lane. His progress along a deserted stretch of motorway was often punctured by sudden braking at phantom hazards on the road ahead.

When I read this paragraph, I was smiling to myself as it is a perfect description of my own night driving. (And, if I'm completely honest, occasionally my day-time driving.) I'm forever mistaking leaves blowing across the road for squirrels and braking suddenly. I've hallucinated deer darting in front of the car that were merely shadows. O'Flynn is a master of this type of detail, and I think that is what makes her characters so believable and relatable.

Although the story has sad and dark undertones, O'Flynn never wallows in it or allows it to become overpowering. When Frank remembers his childhood, he describes his mother as having purple days and orange days.

On purple days, his mother pulls plants up in the garden, she looks out the window at nothing in particular for impossibly long stretches and speaks to her sister in a low voice on the telephone for hours. Sometimes she is cross at Francis, while at others, she doesn't seem to notice he's there at all.

On orange days she tells stories, she invents games, she takes Francis on expeditions and most of all she makes him laugh.

It is obvious his mother is suffering from severe depression, yet when Frank visits her in the assisted-living center, her unrelenting Eyeore-like gloom and refusal to admit to any type of pleasure becomes comical.

But the brightest light in this book is Mo, Frank's daughter. O'Flynn has a gift for writing children, and I would love to see her write an entire books from a child's point of view. (In What Was Lost, the parts with Kate were so endearing and charming that the whole book dimmed when she wasn't in it.) I also enjoyed the sections when O'Flynn writes as young Francis/Frank. She has a firm grasp of what it is like to be a child and how they view the world. Consider this excerpt where a young Frank is playing with his toys using one of his father's scale models:

Today, though, he was caught up in a difficult situation. An outsize Fresian cow is causing chaos in the shopping precinct. Francis had thought that this was surely the very kind of job the cowboys would be able to deal with, but they have shown themselves to be incompetent and cowardly, terrified by the sheer scale of the animal. They huddle at the entrance to the pedestrian subway. A British infantryman has taken the extraordinary decision to release a lion into the crowded precinct to capture the cow. His colleagues call for assistance, but everyone knows there is no direct vehicular access to the precinct. It look as if Little Cloud will have to save the day with a well-aimed arrow from his rooftop perch.

I feel like I've meandered a bit in trying to describe this book. From the book description, the book comes across as a bit of a mystery story. Yet I would hesitate to describe it as a mystery (OK ... I'll give it literary mystery) because the story is really more about exploring the nature of loss and how it infuses and affects our lives. Yet at the same time, the book is often very amusing and light. O'Flynn manages to work a whole lot into this gem of a book, but she makes is awfully darn hard to describe what the book is really like. So, I shall simply stop trying.

My Final Recommendation

O'Flynn's second novel combines humor with everyday life with heart-rending examinations into the nature of loss. A difficult book to pin down, I guess I'd simply say that if you like good writing that can amuse you while also making your heart ache, The News Where You Are would be a satisfying read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to really love it.... Sept. 17 2010
By Luanne Ollivier - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I really enjoyed Catherine O'Flynn's debut novel What Was Lost and was looking forward to her second - The News Where You Are.

Frank is a television news presenter. Viewers enjoy him, but it is the bad puns and jokes (penned by odd duck Cyril - inherited from former presenter and star Phil) that are the appeal for many of the viewers. He lives in a house that he's having trouble selling as it's removed from everything. He loves his wife Andrea who loves him just as much. They have a young daughter Mo who is a breath of fresh air with her sunny view and outlook. Frank's mother Maureen lives in a Seniors development and can only seem to see the worst in everything. Frank questions the verdict of accidental death in Phil's case and does some investigating on his own.

Back cover blurbs include the phrases 'brilliantly funny and heartbreakingly sad and spirited literary mystery". I must say I really didn't find the book funny at all. I did find sadness though. Frank is a multi leveled character. By turns he seems lost, but he's a fantastic father, devoted son and faithful friend. Yet is all seems to be done with a sense of obligation. Frank's father was an architect and the demolition of many of his buildings seems to be an allegory for the breaking down of many barriers in Frank's life, past and present. O'Flynn uses architecture and descriptions of same to mirror many characters' moods and feelings.

The character of Mo stole the show for this reader. Her determined attempts to cheer up her grandmother, her vibrant imagination and her love of life and everything in it were a high point for me.

The 'spirited mystery' wasn't there for this reader. The mystery surrounding Phil's death certainly is an impetus in Frank rediscovering his life but did not fit the 'mystery' tag for me.

O'Flynn has a way with words and many of her scenarios and descriptions are quite eloquent in their simplicity. But the novel moved along quite slowly in the first half for me - the second half was less meandering. I wanted to love this book as much as I did her first one, but for me it was just an okay read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars nod to the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby July 10 2010
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In England, middle aged popular news anchor Frank Allcroft overly reflects where his life has been and where he is going. He hates his job and knows how his peers scorn his talent or lack of as they would insist. He struggles with an eternally depressed mother since his father the architect who was never around anyway died. However, the recent death of his buddy Phil shakes Frank to his core as he ponders mortality; that of his own.

Frank understands his broadcasting is inane with all the news unfit to air. He wanders the town seeing how many things change yet remains the same. A distraught Frank feels for the lonely people living and dead; visiting graves in which no one cares. He detests urban blight but loathes even more demolition as he is unable to move on unlike his mom who insists good and bad are always memories that need to be demolished so one can move away from the past and live in the present.

With a nod to the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby, this is a strong somewhat melancholy character study of someone who reflects on his life and concludes the world is a terrible place to live especially when one feels alone as he does, but dying alone is the punctuation end. Yet in spite of his gloomy outlook on past, present and future, Frank never turns self-pitying as he is stoic believing that's life and death; which ironically leaves the reader with hope. Character study fans will enjoy the story of Frank, caught between a rock and hard place inside his mind yet never quite crushed. The News Where You Are is powerful storytelling

Harriet Klausner
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loss, change, and how we deal with it Sept. 1 2010
By Holly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
"The News Where You Are" is a melancholy look at life and loss without crossing the line into wallowing hopelessness. Frank Allcroft is a middle-aged anchor for a regional new program in Birmingham, England. Several events come together which cause him to reflect on change and loss in life. His charismatic predecessor, Phil, has been recently killed in a hit-and-run accident while jogging; a man he met once has been found dead on a park bench and no one seems to be able to locate any family; the buildings his father designed in the 1970s are being demolished to make way for the new. These are just a few of the happenings that are examined throughout the novel along with a bit of a mystery surrounding Phil's death.

Sometimes I find narratives of this type to be navel-gazing and I want to shake the characters out of their self-absorption. In this case, the reflections are very balanced and the negatives are offset by the inclusion of more positive aspects of the story - Phil's (much) younger wife really loves him and has every intention of standing by his side during his advancing years; Frank's young daughter is a ray of hope with a balanced view of life; and Frank's marriage appears to be solid and loving without all the angst often portrayed. More a character study/societal commentary than anything else without major plot or tension. Beautifully written and a novel well worth a read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the old days when everything was marvelous and everyone was a character Aug. 2 2010
By K. L. Cotugno - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
How quickly the present becomes the past. How often do we truly enjoy the moment we're living in, appreciate the present, without gazing back in longing, ahead in fear or hope. This is a book about nostalgia, about longing for a past that never really existed. The past only seems better than the present because it is irretrievable. Near the end of the book, Frank tells his daughter that when you're young, life is all in the future; when youre old, it's all in the past. From the wisdom of her eight years, his daughter Mo replies that she lives in the present. Each of the principal characters approaches aging in a unique way, and Frank, who is only 43, is an onlooker, regarding his mother's decline (which contains not a few suprises), and remembering his architect father whose death at 51 may have been caused by career disillusionment. His father's buildings from the 70s are already considered passe and are being demolished sometimes just to create empty lots.

Reading is a subjective pleasure, but the craft of writing and of character building displayed throughout every page is so exemplary, it will be hard to top it. The exclusion of this book from the Booker's long lost issued last week baffles me.
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