The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle
Ever since The Incident, James DeWitt has stayed on the safe side.
He likes to know what happens next.
Danny Allen is not on the safe side. He is more past the point of no return.
The past is about to catch up with both of them in a way that which will change their lives forever, unexpectedly.
But redemption can come in the most unlikely ways.
I actually got completely and utterly confused in the synopsis of this novel. I thought it was a modern-day version of Patrick Gale’s A Place Called Winter. I wrongly assumed it was a story of romance between James and Danny. It is not!
That’s not to say, it isn’t just as beautiful and emotive in it’s creation.
The novel focuses on the friendship between Danny and James.
Which is a tender, moving and inspiring story.
‘Some people are simply beyond redemption or salvation or whatever, some of us are simply stuck being what we are’ – Danny
The novel opens to Danny getting the upsetting news that his dole is about to be stopped. He lives with his girlfriend Maya, whom he knows will be furious to discover this. Danny is 36yrs old and appears to have simply given up with life. He applies for a position at Four Oaks residential & respite home. He doesn’t do this to improve the lives of others, but simply to find easy and quick employment. He has no idea, how this choice will have a massive impact upon his life.
James is also 36yrs old, he is learning to adapt his lifestyle due to a savage and brutal attack. James was once a wealthy and privileged property develop. He was celebrating being elected as Labour MP for Birmingham South, when he was viciously assaulted. The attack left him with life-changing disabilities. He lives with his parents and enters the respite centre, so that his parents can enjoy a three-week cruise.
It has been three years since the incident that changed his life. Since the incident James has lived a life of ‘playing it safe’ which by my interpretation is surviving not living.
‘Ever since the incident the safe side is all I get to know’ – James
James arrives at Four Oaks and instantly recognises Danny from his past. But James memory is not always to be trusted, due to his acquired brain injury. Danny denies knowing who James is, which leaves James feeling even more confused and convinced that he knows Danny.
The author has written a thoroughly accurate description of a care home. My previous career was not only working in care homes but as management too. I have cared for individuals with acquired brain injuries and their level of needs is extremely complex and individual. Similarly, to dementia, no person is impacted exactly the same and the symptoms vary person to person. The author has done an outstanding level of research and paid attention to the details. I am MASSIVELY impressed.
Danny eventually admits the truth, that he does know how James is. It turns out the two attended the same prestigious boarding school. Danny was attending on scholarship and his intelligence was renowned. Which is why James is confused as to how/why Danny ended up as a carer. But just like James, Danny has a complex backstory too.
‘I just want to be normal’ – James
The two form a friendship based around James’s desire to live as independently as possible and Danny’s attempt at some form of redemption. What flows is a gentle and emotive novel. There are parts that are emotionally charged. One specific part is Martha’s letter, at that precise moment, I just dissolved into tears.
This novel isn’t just about emotion. It actively challenges the view of disability and personal struggle.
Simply beautiful 5*