(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“Before, when he labored, he slept and he ate, and his mama took care of him. There wasn’t room for much of anything else. Now he has too much time. Now he has a lot to worry about. His life is a maze, he runs through it every day. Will he eat, will anybody be kind to him? Will he find somewhere to wash today?…The public toilets are an option but they are not clean. They are not safe.”
Willem Gyle was satisfied with his life. Though he was mentally “slow” from birth, he found satisfaction going to work every day as s laborer, and coming home to his dog and mother. However, the shop closes and all of the workers are laid off. His alcoholic mother then suddenly dies and his life totally unravels.
Mama was behind on the rent, so the apartment was cleared out and he can’t go back home. He now has no home and nowhere to go. He can’t receive public assistance since he doesn’t have an address. He can’t find another job, because the entire city of Edinburgh is going through an economic depression and his mental disability hinders him even more.
Willem wonders and rambles through the Scottish highlands. We find out the people he encounters and the situations he faces. Unfortunately, we learn the horrors of what a person will do simply to survive.
“An innocent man can’t take what they threw at me. An innocent man can’t take any of it. So I had to be guilty to keep my head screwed on.”
Willem is quite observant of human and animal behavior, and even though the novel is written in the third person, the story is from Willem’s sensitive perspective. We can’t help but feel for him, no matter what he does. We are also reminded of our flawed government bureaucracies and learn to detest them even more.
The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle will keep you engrossed at every turn, often with a shocking event followed with a bitter dose of reality. Since the story occurs in current-day society, the problems can’t be ignored.
This gut-wrenching novel forces us to look at the condition of homelessness. It not only affects the poor individuals involved, but the welfare of society as a whole. Though the book doesn’t provide solutions, it reminds us of the consequences of ignoring these problems. This book is a must-read for everyone.