Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Books: Heartbreak’s hardest road

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: Recently I reviewed a pair of books – The Lifeboat and The Starboard Sea – by a pair of first-time female novelists that were competent enough in terms of prose and plot but sorely lacking in characterization. In a word, they lacked heart.

Scott O’Connor’s Untouchable (Tyrus Books, Blue Ash, Oklahoma, 2011, 381pp) is chock full of heart: that rich emotional identification with a character that arises from inhabiting that person from the inside out. The grief and fears of a motherless child become yours too.

“Here he comes, Whitley Earl Darby, commonly known as The Kid, big head, big feet, spindly body, the whole contraption threatening to tip over at any moment as he navigated the buckled sidewalk, readjusted the weight of his overlarge backpack. Here comes The Kid, make room, make way. Don’t get too close. Known to have germs, cooties, bad breath, B.O. Known to be diseased, known to be contagious.”

The Kid is eleven years old and the pariah of his schoolroom class, persecuted ruthlessly by bullies, always on the alert for flight. He shares a small rundown house in a bad neighborhood in Los Angeles with his depressed, grief-stricken father. The two live on fast food.

According to the father, the mother collapsed one day while teaching her high school history class. The Kid doesn’t believe him. Influenced by his only friend, Matthew Crump, son of militant fundamentalist Christians, he swears a covenant not to speak until his mother returns home. He communicates by notepad.

He’s also a comic book artist, creator of Extraordinary Adventures featuring boy wonder Smooshie Smith.

“Smooshie was the most popular talk show host in the history of TV because he had a time machine that let him go back and forth through the years and interview all sorts of people.”

When his mother was still alive and he was still speaking, he also had his own imaginary TV interview show called It’s That Kid! Every episode was carefully preserved by his mother on cassettes.

His memories of his mother – cooking up a storm in the kitchen, cheering on her beloved LA Dodgers in Dodgers Stadium – are rendered in virtual prose poems.

His father is equally grief-stricken, a situation not helped by his job on a cleanup crew for exceptionally messy suicides and murders. He is further burdened by knowing the real cause of his wife’s death. But he is capable of his own prose poem about growing up with his grandmother in the New Mexico desert. While working construction on a gated retirement community, he’d sneak in to be alone.

“He would find a filled pool and strip down to his underpants, lie on his back and float. Watching the tops of palm trees moving against the purple sky, feeling the warmth of the water, his skin taking on sun. When his ears bobbed under there was a rushing sound, a seashell roar, and when they came back about there was nothing, just the silence of the desert.”

Then two things happen that jolt father and son out of their dismal routines. The father rescues a huge half-mad dog that has been trapped in a nearby sewer. “The dog was a good idea,” the father thinks. “The dog would forget the sewer; forget the pound, and then the dog would be fine, friendly and fine.” Now, how to communicate with the dog?

The son explores a house that has recently burned down. Someone has left a ceiling-high pastel chalk mural of a red-haired angel in the charred living room, wings lifting up to the sky. The Kid takes over the opposite wall to respond with his own crowded mural of everyday life, gradually gathering three companions from school and drawing them into this site of mystery.

Alone and together, father and son confront their loss and grief. They battle to find their voices and to reunite at last on the eve of the new millennium, beneath a desert sky. It’s been a terrible but triumphant journey and the reader shares in their sense of redemption.

The book is available as an e-book for the Kindle at or by ordering through all good bookshops in Phuket.

— James Eckardt


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forums
🔔 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join YouTube for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Thailand34 mins ago

Government says it’s okay to criticise them, if it’s fact based

Thailand2 hours ago

Bangkok volunteer group “Sai Mai Will Survive” overwhelmed with calls

Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 hours ago

Phuket reservations slow down for August

Sponsored2 days ago

Experience Phuket’s Islands with 5 Star Marine

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Thailand6 hours ago

Covid UPDATE Saturday: 18,912 infections, news briefs

Drugs11 hours ago

Police nab 600kg heroin drug bust, year’s biggest in Northeast

Koh Samui15 hours ago

Koh Samui unaccustomed to Covid-19, many act in dismay

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand17 hours ago

Bangkok Airways extends flight suspension to August 11

Thailand18 hours ago

7 Jomtien Beach curfew breakers arrested

Thailand18 hours ago

Buri Ram pig stable converted into gambling den: 22 arrests follow

Thailand19 hours ago

“Fake news” banned, Thai media say order infringes on freedoms

Phuket19 hours ago

Precarious Phuket: open internationally, closed domestically

Best of20 hours ago

Top 5 tattoo parlours Bangkok

World20 hours ago

Duterte approves lockdown measures for Manila

Best of20 hours ago

The Best Pizza in Bangkok with Delivery

Thailand20 hours ago

Thailand News Today | worker camp woes, ‘fake news’ crackdown | July 30

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism5 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8