Time Neither Forgets Nor Forgives

The cliche is that “time heals all wounds.” I’ve just read a novel that hangs that hoary phrase out to dry like an animal skin tacked to the side of a barn. In a perversely meandering psychological tale entitled The Insult, the passage of time does little more than continually circle back on itself to avenge wrongs. And it’s not just the wrong doers who suffer. Anyone foolish or unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time is just as likely to incur the wrath of this particular cosmic conscience. No one is totally immune.

The novel, by Rupert Thomson, begins realistically enough–a man walking through a supermarket parking lot is shot in the head. Would that such random hideousness never occurred. But we all know too well such things happen. In this instance, the man, Martin Blom, recovers, but finds himself totally blind. His doctor informs him his sight will never return. And Martin believes him. Until strangely enough, Martin develops an ability to see at night. A fact he hides from his doctor, who has told him he may experience hallucinations that make him believe he is really seeing when in fact he isn’t. So, does he see or doesn’t he? That’s for the reader to find out. And that’s just one of the questions raised in this evocative narrative.

Alienation is a theme that runs throughout The Insult. Even though his doctor and the hospital staff are kind, competent, and caring, Martin separates himself from them as quickly as he can. Even though his mother and father and fiancee are sympathetic, loving and willing to help in every way they can, Martin leaves them too. Isolating himself in a run down hotel, he is determined to be alone, independent, and self-sustaining. He looks upon his injury as a chance to start a new life. It may not be what his former life offered him, but it will be something of his own making.

In this new life, Martin meets a girl, Nina. A girl unlike he has ever met before. Nina is in no way put off by his blindness. In fact, she seems to be attracted to it. As their relationship builds, Martin maintains his secret of nocturnal sight. Savoring the edge it seems to give him. An edge not only on Nina, but on all who see him as just another blind man.

As Martin works with the police who are trying to find out who fired the shot that cost him his sight, Nina vanishes. Was she kidnapped? Killed? Did she just leave? All of a sudden the police investigation into Martin’s injury becomes an investigation into Nina’s disappearance–with Martin as a prime suspect.

Physical and psychological questions abound. Can Martin really see or is he just imagining it? Does Martin want to find out what happened to Nina because he loves her, or did he himself have something to do with her disappearance? He doesn’t think he did. At least not on a conscious level. Which is why he leaves the city and seeks out the people in Nina’s past she told him about. A mother from whom she’s estranged. A father who may not be her father at all. A friend who’s told her he will do anything for her–even kill.

Two-thirds into the novel, the focus which has been on Martin, seems to change to the checkered history of Nina’s lineage. A virtual book within a book emerges to detail Nina’s familial past. Some readers may be annoyed at the fact that the tome has seemed to leave one story in mid-air and switch to another. But is that truly the case, or are they intertwined? And can the present mystery be solved without unearthing the tragic events that occurred so many years before, but now lead inexorably to both Nina and Martin.

The author, Rupert Thomson, is interested in more than simply constructing a mysterious maze. He wants to explore issues like fate, sin and its consequences. Not just for the sinners, but for those who come after them as well. It’s disconcerting to think that something someone else did long ago, might have a direct effect on our own lives. But it’s certainly possible. And actually quite credible. The Fiction Fortune Hunter finds it also compelling and unforgettable as delivered via The Insult.


53 Responses to “Time Neither Forgets Nor Forgives”

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