William Boyle is back in his childhood neigborhood, Gravesend.
The lonely witness is a fragile woman. She lives in a small apartment . She helps the house-bound to receive communion in the Gravesend community of Brooklyn. She visits elderly people and works part time as a waitress to pay the bills. Amy was once a party girl but it all stopped after her ex-girlfriend, Alessandra, split up. They had moved together to Gravesend, the place where Alessandra grew up. Now Amy lives by herself and visits Mrs Epifanio, an elderly woman. Her usual caretaker, Diane, has the flu or so Diane’s son Vincent said. But Vincent is a strange young man and when he came to visit Mrs E. he went straight to her bedroom doing who knows what.
Amy meets Vincent briefly and it sets off warning bells, so decides to tail Vincent through Brooklyn, eventually following to a bar. But what happens next, Amy had no idea. Vincent goes to an alley back with another man and gets stabbed in the neck. His murderer runs away and Amy goes to see Vincent, dying on a street.
Amy is shocked but at the same time, for reasons she can’t quite understand, she finds herself both captivated by the crime and the fact she’s the only witness. She doesn’t report the crime or calls for help and does something really weird : she collects the murder weapon and decides to find the killer.
If William Boyle describes so well the neighborhood he grew up in, it’s through the eyes of this young unsettled woman . Amy has to face several issues : the death of Vincent and the sudden comeback of a family member. Amy thought she had found her way through religion, but now nothing makes any sense. The story turns to the thriller, the murderer knows who the witness is and Amy is going through a deep mystical crisis.
I have to admit that I had a hard time understanding Amy’s erratic behavior – she never takes the right decisions and acts as if she wants to be caught. None of it makes any sense.
The book is none the less a good page-turner, though I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy as much the very last chapters – mostly dialogues and street names, sometimes I do need more contextual descriptions. The other reason is mostly because Amy’s dialogues are as erratic and disorganized as her personality. So it’s hard to keep up with her. She’s probably going through a real depression.
The other characters are well written and I really enjoyed Alessandra’s character and her landlord. I also enjoyed Gravesend, its inhabitants. And of course, the tenderness of the author towards this community.