The Coward, Jarred McGinnis
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
I wasn’t really sure I could deal with this, part fiction, part bio read. I’m also in a wheelchair, like Jared I wasn’t born disabled, and even now 25 years on the frustration between now and my “old” life is hard to deal with.
But I did read it, and what a gripping read it is. Jarred is such a real person. Too often we disabled folk are portrayed as some kind of saint – I’ve been patted like a dog, had my hair ruffled, been called Brave more times than I can count. We’re people, same as able bodied folk, we get angry, we do bad things, we can be impatient, rude, arrogant….and Jarred illustrated most of those at times. There are times when I really want to be like Blunt Jarred. But that’s not me ;-( I keep it inside. We are who we are.
Its hard reading, very hard at times but the type of book where you just have to keep going, see whats coming next. I felt for young Jarred but had the benefit of the wider view, knowing why he was acting out. His neighbours, the shopkeepers whose stock he was taking, the schools were he truanted, acted out will have a different view.
I feel for his frustration, I understand why he’s rude to those helpful, well meaning folk. Some days you just can’t take it. Its not their fault or yours, it just is.
Poor Jarred didn’t have the greatest upbringing either, mum died young, dad took to the bottle and Jarred was left to his own devices. For a young, grieving teen that means trouble…and after a few more rows with Jack, his dad, he leaves at just 16. The next time Jack hears from him is ten years later.
Those ten years have changed Jack, but Jarred has been on some kind of merry go round, always searching, always moving on, until he comes to this forcible stop. He’s still angry at life, his dad, his older brother, who it seems to him could have helped but turned a blind eye to what was going on.
Now he’s even more to be angry about, and I understood his feelings so well. I found losing my work, losing my leg, equaled losing my identity. I just couldn’t be grateful for the wheelchair, the false leg, the social workers who were well meaning but really didn’t understand. Everything has to be relearned, even simple stuff like turning over in bed. No wonder Jarred was so angry, no wonder he didn’t want to deal, he felt guilt for the accident and his friends death, still had his grief for his mum, issues with his dad. He couldn’t just be grateful his dad took him in, he was angry and it really was a last resort going back to Jack. What an awful situation to be in.
It was a joy to read how slowly he and Jack found common ground, how his brother acknowledged his position in what happened, how Jack has dealt with his alcoholism and what he’d been doing in the intervening years. They both had a dry sense of humour, that came out at times. When they were laughing at the well meaning but patronizing people that struck a chord. The number of times I’ve said to family or friends. “I’m going to spit and scream at the next person to pat me”, or where I’ve paid for something and the change has been ( or attempted to be ) given to whoever is with me. They’ve been trained, ignore until finally assistant realises its Me that wants the change!)
Sarah was the real life saver, and what a wonderful lady she is/was. Again I’m not sure where reality stops and fiction begins but she was a gem, knew just when to stand back and when to push, exactly what Jarred – and Jack – needed. Her family, wonderful and I hope they’re all real. I loved the scenes with Marcus and the time they took him out to the casino. Its back to that “disabled folk should accept their lot and not be out among able bodied people”. That’s a very prevalent attitude, one I’ve met many times. Even my own father expected me at 37 to just be content to sit at home, give up my life. I didn’t and I’m so glad Jarred found a way through too.
I’ve just read his bio, where it mentions his daughters, and that made me really happy that he’s found the family he deserves.
Stars: Five, an astonishingly readable, gripping novel.
ARC supplied by Netgally and publishers