"This is How" by M.J. Hyland is a suprising new favourite of mine. I started the book not expecting to become completely immersed in Patrick Oxtoby's story, yet I found that I was unable to put it down.
Patrick Oxtoby has recently been dumped by his fiancee and in the hopes of starting over, he moves to a remote seaside village. When he arrives, he struggles to fit in with his new housemates at the boarding house where he is renting a room. Where they are at ease and friendly, he is distant and remote. Even though he wants to fit in, he finds that he just can't. His unease with those around him: the woman who runs the boarding house, his housemates, the woman who works in the local Cafe and even his own mother, grows, and one night Patrick takes a surprising action with long-lasting consequences. At this point in the book, I was hooked. I won't even tell you what happens, but what I will tell you is that this book is well-worth picking up. It was spellbinding.
It has been said that this book inspires "equal parts sympathy and horror" and I couldn't describe it better myself. As a reader, I felt sympathetic towards Patrick Oxtoby. He's such an awkward character (very well conveyed by M.J. Hyland), and no matter what he does, he can't seem to catch a break. Yet what he does is shocking, and I was horrified at his lack of emotion when he commits a crime, as well as the punishment meted out for him. He reminded me of a little boy clueless as to why he's been punished. All of these different aspects of his character came together and formed a very complex and fascinating main character, as well as a story that will not soon be forgotten.