The News Where You Areby Catherine O'Flynn
From the bestselling author of What Was Lost comes a spirited literary mystery about a television anchorman's search for the truth about the disappearances that surround him
Frank Allcroft, a television news anchor in his hometown (where he reports on hard-hitting events, like the opening of canine gyms for overweight pets), is on the verge of a/b>/i>
From the bestselling author of What Was Lost comes a spirited literary mystery about a television anchorman's search for the truth about the disappearances that surround him
Frank Allcroft, a television news anchor in his hometown (where he reports on hard-hitting events, like the opening of canine gyms for overweight pets), is on the verge of a mid-life crisis. Beneath his famously corny on-screen persona, Frank is haunted by loss: the mysterious hit-and-run that killed his predecessor and friend, Phil, and the ongoing demolition of his architect father's monumental postwar buildings. And then there are the things he can't seem to lose, no matter how hard he tries: his home, for one, on the market for years; and the nagging sense that he will never quite be the son his mothernewly ensconced in an assisted-living centerwanted.
As Frank uncovers the shocking truth behind Phil's death, and comes to terms with his domineering father's legacy, it is his beloved young daughter, Mo, who points him toward the future. Funny and touching, The News Where You Are is a moving exploration of what we do and don't leave behind, proving once more that Catherine O'Flynn's writing "shimmers with dark brilliance" (Chicago Tribune).
The News Where You Are is a 2011 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Paperback Original.
The New York Times
“Heartbreakingly funny.... O'Flynn makes us reconsider the things we choose to lose--and the things we forget to remember until it's too late.” Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“This superbly written novel begins with deceptive simplicity and humor, and quietly blossoms into a precisely observed story about loss, aging, friendship, and reinvention. . . . [O'Flynn's] writing has unmistakable authenticity, delicately balancing comedy and tragedy. It's a difficult trick, one that she has mastered with impressive grace.” Diane White, The Boston Globe
“Writing a second novel is a nervy business for a writer, especially when the first one has been unexpectedly and wonderfully successful, as was Catherine O'Flynn's debut What Was Lost, which went on to win the 2008 Costa first novel and a cluster of other awards. But O'Flynn need not be nervous. Her second novel, The News Where You Are, establishes her as, let's say, the JG Ballard of Birmingham. As Ballard dealt with the landscape of the motorway and made it his own, so O'Flynn deals with her particular city, finding poetry and meaning where others see merely boredom and dereliction. It is a most moving book. Lightly flinging a joke or two in the reader's direction, a snatch or so of knowledgeable brightness, O'Flynn comes across as the mistress of compassion.… This [is a] blend of Dickens and Alan Bennett, written in the kind of stripped-down, flat style that so suits its time and place. I loved it, and am haunted by it. While What Was Lost benefited from the existence of an actual child ghost ... this book is set in a less metaphorical, less fanciful world, but it has equal power. If you can write two good novels you can write another and another and another: I am sure O'Flynn will and I look forward to them.” Fay Weldon, The Guardian
“Catherine O'Flynn's narratives of urban disenchantment answer the challenge for novelists to take the ordinary and make it compelling. The setting of her Costa First Novel Award-winning What Was Lost was the unexceptional world of a Midlands city shopping mall. In this second fictional outing, a regional TV studio becomes a symbol of the awfulness of modern mass culture.... Tenderly portrayed, like all O'Flynn characters, [Frank] is far more interested in the invisible lives of people beyond the news, in particular those whose only brief claim to fame is the sad mode of their passing: alone and forgotten in the city.... O'Flynn's eye for the quotidian ridiculous is sharp enough to rank her with Mark Haddon and Marina Lewycka--comic novelists worth taking seriously.... This funny, moving novel reflects back to us our everyday selves.” Rachel Hore, The Independent (UK)
“That O'Flynn can balance stylized minimalism with a wholly engaging narrative is the mark of a serious writer.... A work of some real literary weight. Beneath the un-screaming facades of O'Flynn's characters is a searing denunciation of modern values, and a writer who isn't afraid to sacrifice the conventions of depth for experiments in shape and restraint.” Martha Schabas, Globe and Mail
“Seriously uplifting. It's a funny, moving, acutely observed story about family and loss, getting old and being alone. That it also manages to take in British architecture and urban space and the problems of celebrity culture, while being disarmingly easy to read, is testament to Catherine O'Flynn's comic timing and lightness of touch.... O'Flynn's description of the editorial conference at the TV station where Frank works is hilarious ... Her great strength is to take characters who are, in a way, familiar, who could be annoying, perhaps even pathetic, and to invest them with a palpable humanity and dignity. A stand-out character is Frank's eight-year-old daughter, Mo. Full of questions, anxieties and quirks, she's Frank's connection to how wonderful and scary and strange the world is. She's the kind of child who worries that trampolines near canals might be death traps and who takes it on herself to cheer up her miserable grandmother, providing some truly funny moments.... A pleasurable, satisfying gem of a novel.” Claire Black, Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh)
“O'Flynn's second novel is also set in the Midlands but is about remembrance.... [The News Where You Are]'s gentle wit and melancholy are beguiling.” David Headley, The Daily Express
“The News Where You Are proves that all of the praise won by [O'Flynn's] eerie debut was no fluke.... With beautifully drawn characters and O'Flynn's uncanny sense of psychology, this novel is a moving, funny, and often affirming exploration of fatherhood and the ways in which our inner lives don't match our outer ones.” Brian Lynch, Georgia Straight (Vancouver, Canada)
“Author of the critically acclaimed What Was Lost, O'Flynn tends to focus on what people discard, on those people and things that have been passed by and forgotten. Here, Frank identifies with them and lets them know that they are not invisible to him. A sometimes humorous and always compassionate novel about approaching the fear of going out of style and becoming obsolete, with the perspective that history and memories afford.” Library Journal
“The News Where You Are is a compelling, moving and wonderful exploration of what it means to age, of how our sense of ourselves changes in ways we would never expect and can't always control. O'Flynn writes with a humor and subtle grace that underscores the urgency with which her characters approach their own ends.” Steven Galloway, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo
“The News Where You Are is a stunning accomplishment, a page-turner shot through with O'Flynn's compassion and electrifying wit. O'Flynn gives us an unflinching vision of profound loss without ever losing her sense of humor; she shows us that the haunted corridors of the heart can also echo with laughter.” Karen Russell, author of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
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Read an Excerpt
He gave up any pretense of jogging now and walked slowly along the lane, following in the wake of an empty crisp packet blown along the tarmac. Without its example he wasn't sure he'd have the will to move forward.
His steps were heavy and the elasticized cuffs of his tracksuit made his wrists itch. He looked at the loose flesh on the back of his hand pinched by the bright red polyester and found the contrast grotesque.
Mikey had let him down again. Finally he understood that Mikey would never do it.
The sky had darkened as he walked along and now the first fat drops of rain splattered on the road around him. Phil nodded his head. Rain was all that had been missing.
He heard a car approaching. Its passing force would whip the crisp packet away and he didn't know what he'd follow then. The driver was making the most of the straight country lane and picking up speed. Phil moved slightly closer to the hedgerow on his left. He knew he cut a pitiful figure— an old rain- soaked man dressed head to toe in Nike. Jimmy bloody Savile.
The car was getting closer now and as it did it veered slightly toward Phil's side of the lane. Phil smiled blandly in its direction—force of habit. As it drew down upon him, he realized that the driver wasn't going to swerve away. In the last few seconds, the sky's reflection on the windscreen vanished, and Phil saw the familiar face behind the wheel, white with fear and running with tears.
Six Months Later
Frank's daughter sat in the front passenger seat humming the same tune over and over. The notes spiraled upwards and then abruptly plummeted, before starting the ascent again. Frank drove toward the city.
"What's the tune, Mo?" asked Frank. "It's a song by the Beatles. It's a man asking questions about when he gets old." "What? "When I'm Sixty-four'?" "Yeah. That's it . . . Dad, do you want to know something?" "Erm, yes, please." "When I'm sixty-four, I'll be eight times older than I am
now. Eight times eight is sixty-four." "That's true." She looked out of the window. "Eight hundred percent!" She shook her head in amazement and began to hum again. Frank frowned. "But "When I'm Sixty-four' doesn't sound anything like that." Mo beamed. "I know! I invented a new tune. It's better." "Oh, okay." Frank paused. "It's very different to the original.
Are the words the same?" "I don't know, I'm just humming." "I know, but in your head are the words the same?" "No. They're better too. He wants to know will there be robots,
and will his cat be able to talk and will his car fl y." "It's quite a strange tune." "It's how he thinks music will sound when he's old." "Oh, I see, future music. That explains it."
Mo hummed another few bars and then, to Frank's relief, stopped.
"Do you think Gran ever listens to music?"
"Not future music. I don't think so."
"No. I mean any music."
"Yes, I'm sure she does sometimes. She has a radio in her room."
"I know, but it's all covered in dust. She should listen to music. I think it would make her less sad. She could listen to stuff she remembered when she was young."
Frank said nothing.
"Maybe I could take her some old music and she could listen to it on my headphones."
Frank glanced at Mo. "Sometimes old music makes people sad. It reminds them of the past and things that have gone."
"Oh," said Mo.
Frank reached across and squeezed her hand. Mo spent a lot of time trying to think of ways to make his mother less unhappy. It was a project for her.
"Are we going a different way to the supermarket?"
"I want to show you something first."
Frank put the radio on and they listened to a comedy program. Mo laughed when Frank laughed.
He parked at a meter in a back street and then walked with Mo down to the busy ring road. A pedestrian bridge spanned the six lanes of traffic and Mo and Frank climbed the zigzagging concrete steps to the top. Halfway across they stopped. Frank bent down toward Mo so she could hear him above the roar of the traffic. Her hair blew into his face.
"Remember I told you about my dad."
"That he had a dog!" said Mo excitedly.
"Yeah, that's right. He had a dog when he was a boy. But do you remember what I said my dad's job was?"
"Yes. He was an architect. He made buildings."
"Can you see that block over there? The tall one with the dark glass."
"Yeah. I can see it."
"That's called Worcester House. My dad designed that building."
"Did he live in it?"
"No, he didn't live in it. We lived in a house. He made this for people to work in."
"How many floors has it got?"
"Are there escalators?"
"No, there are two lifts."
"Can we go up in them?"
"No, I'm sorry. We can't go in the building now."
"Can we go and look at it?"
"That's where we're going."
Mo ran across the rest of the bridge and then waited for Frank to catch up. The building was a little farther away than it seemed from the bridge, tucked amid a cluster of other blocks, converted town houses and car parks. Worcester House was a classic mid-period Douglas H. Allcroft and Partners creation. Built in 1971, it was an uncompromising, thuggish-looking block, clad in precast concrete panels and devoid of all exterior decoration. Despite its height it appeared squat and defensive, occupying a large plot on the corner of Carlton Street and Newman Row, glowering down on the few Georgian blocks still remaining in the center.
As they drew closer to it at street level, Mo noticed the white boards all around the outside of the building:
"Why are the boards there, Dad?"
"They're there to protect people when they demolish the building."
Mo stopped walking. "They're demolishing it?"
Frank nodded. "That's why I brought you today; it'll be gone soon."
"But why are they knocking it down? Is it broken?"
"No, it's not broken; it's fine. It's just . . . they don't need it anymore."
"But, Dad, loads of people could work here. Or they could use it to put homeless people in—that'd be better than sleeping on the streets. They could sleep under desks and go up and down in the lift s."
"They want to build new homes in the city now—apartments for the people who work here— and this building isn't right for homes. Dad didn't build it for that, and so they say it has to be taken down and started again."
Mo thought for a while. "Does that happen to all buildings? Do they all get knocked down?"
"Some stay for a long time. Like Aston Hall. But lots don't. It's a bit like clothes. You know, you wouldn't wear the clothes Mom and I used to wear—they'd seem really uncool to you— and sometimes that happens with buildings. People just don't like them anymore; they aren't fashionable."
Frank realized that unfashionable wasn't quite adequate. People did not feel about his father's buildings the way they felt about marble-washed denim or ski pants. They might smile ruefully and shake their heads about their own lapses in taste, but not those imposed on their city. Aside from the family home he built in Edgbaston, only two of the eight buildings his father had created in the city remained. In a few weeks there would be only one.
Mo was squinting at the building, counting the windows. When she'd finished, she turned back to Frank. "But, Dad, sometimes things come back into fashion. Like Mom always says, the clothes in the shops now are the same as twenty years ago. Maybe if they waited this building would be in fashion again."
Frank nodded. "Maybe. People don't always agree, though. A few of us thought it should be saved, but others didn't and . . . well, they won in the end."
"I don't think this building is uncool."
Frank got out his camera. "Anyway, I want to take a photo of you and the building behind you. So however many different buildings come and go you'll always know this building was here, and that you and I stood on this spot and talked about it one morning."
Mo wouldn't smile for the photo. She said it was for when she was grown-up and serious. Afterward she said, "Dad, are you sad that it's going to be demolished?"
Frank looked up at the top floor of the building and remembered looking out from there as a boy. "Yes, I am."
Mo held his hand. She looked at the other buildings in the street. Worcester House was the only one surrounded by boards. "Me too."
Meet the Author
Catherine O'Flynn's is the author of The News Where You Are and What Was Lost, which won the Costa First Novel Award in 2007, was short-listed for The Guardian First Book Award, and was long-listed for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize. She lives in Birmingham, England.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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"The News Where You Are" starts with a walk, a revelation and a death. Six months later, Frank and Mo-his eight-year-old daughter-visit the building that Frank's father designed, the building that will soon be demolished. Frank takes a picture of Mo standing in front of the building in an effort to prove, if even just to himself, that the building will be remembered. This pattern of Frank feeling the need to remember the forgotten appears in almost every interconnected plotline. Why does Frank's mom act the way she does? Will someone ever want to purchase Frank's house? Is there any value in Frank preventing the demolition of his dad's last building? But the biggest question of all, the question that Frank investigates the most, concerns the glamorous Paul, the silent Michael and the comedic Cyril: How does Michael's death connect to Paul's death.and where does Cyril fit in? Though loss is the focus point, this story isn't particularly depressing or sappy. It reads like a snapshot collection of pictures that switch between the past and present. "The News Where You Are" is a novel that executes reality very well. The characters easily feel like people I could've passed up on the street yesterday. There is as much to look forward to as there is to look back at, and "The News Where You Are" does a beautiful job reminding readers of that. Reviewed by Tiffany Cole for Suspense Magazine
In England, middle aged popular news anchor Frank Allcroft overly reflects where his life has been and where he is going. He hates his job and knows how his peers scorn his talent or lack of as they would insist. He struggles with an eternally depressed mother since his father the architect who was never around anyway died. However, the recent death of his buddy Phil shakes Frank to his core as he ponders mortality; that of his own. Frank understands his broadcasting is inane with all the news unfit to air. He wanders the town seeing how many things change yet remains the same. A distraught Frank feels for the lonely people living and dead; visiting graves in which no one cares. He detests urban blight but loathes even more demolition as he is unable to move on unlike his mom who insists good and bad are always memories that need to be demolished so one can move away from the past and live in the present. With a nod to the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby, this is a strong somewhat melancholy character study of someone who reflects on his life and concludes the world is terrible place to live especially when one feels alone as he does, but dying alone is the punctuation end. Yet in spite of his gloomy outlook on past, present and future, Frank never turns self-pitying as he is stoic believing that's life and death; which ironically leaves the reader with hope. Character study fans will enjoy the story of Frank, caught between a rock and hard place inside his mind yet never quite crushed. The News Where You Are is powerful storytelling. Harriet Klausner
The News Where You Are, by Catherine O'Flynn, begins as a gentle character study of an aging news anchor, popular to viewers but something of a joke to his colleagues. Off the air, Frank Allcroft spends his time obsessively analyzing parts of his life: the legacy of his deceased father, his depressed mother, and his unfulfilling job. After the death of a close friend, he suddenly feels untethered and lost. To ease his conscience about the superficial nature of his job, Frank makes a habit of taking a personal interest in news stories that feature abandoned people. He explores parts of his town, old and new, and watches the march of time and its effects on the inhabitants and their attitudes. He visits the graves of those who die nameless or unloved, and in this he becomes involved in a mystery that actually wraps around his own obsessions with the past. It's at this point that the novel, set in small town England, becomes far less simple or gentle. By searching the themes of abandonment, the race of time, and the nature of friendship, the author creates a suspenseful, if untraditional, thriller that leaves you pondering how much of what we know-whether about friends or family-is actually real. A main theme in Frank's life is his late father, an architect, who was usually absent; Frank had consoled himself as a child by imagining that his father sacrificed his family for a greater good. His belief system is reevaluated when the buildings end up demolished. "As his buildings were bulldozed, one by one, Frank began to suspect that often what vanished revealed more than what remained." His mother finds the demolition far easier to bear, and in most ways she is able to move forward despite her age and depression. She chides Frank: "Everything was a memento for you. Everything reminded you of something. Nothing was allowed to be forgotten. I can't imagine anything worse" Catherine O'Flynn writes in a beautiful prose that alternates between bitter and sweet, comical and tragic. At times she illustrates the pain involved in the most personal of disappointments without overwrought emotion. I appreciated that while Frank, the protagonist, is pensive, he never descends into the maudlin or pathetic. He still manages to go through his life with responsibility and acuity. Modern fiction is populated with plenty of self-absorbed and despondent characters, lost in messes of their own design. This novel is refreshing because Frank doesn't fit that cliché; he keeps functioning and proactive, despite his inclinations to dwell in the past. The denouement of the novel is complicated, and I won't spoil it here. Much must be said, though, about O'Flynn's fascinating voice and style of description as embodied in Frank. When Frank visits a dead man's house, one who died alone and unknown, he imagines him ".diligently cleaning a house that would only be visited by strangers after his death. He thought squalor would have been less sad." Or when observing a mental hospital converted into condos, he muses "who would choose to live in a place of former suffering? What level of hubris was required to feel so utterly undaunted by the past?" Lines like those stopped me in my tracks, wondering how a mystery novel could be so deep and relevant and still retain its suspense. The mystery is a introspective read, and it left me pondering more about the people I know who are alone, who appear to be lost, and in comparison those who seem to have