The hero of this book, the Alex Woods of the title, suffers brain damage at the age of ten when a meteorite bursts through the roof of the house he shares with his clairvoyant single mother. I mean, could there really
be a more unlikely back story than that?
Author Gavin Extence’s first novel is reminiscent in some ways of The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time
in the unpredictability of its hero and his outlook on the world. It’s the tale of the unlikely friendship between Alex and the reclusive Mr Peterson, the bonds they cement through the establishment of a somewhat specialist Book Group and a momentous
life and death decision the boy has to make for his friend.
Alex is hugely likeable, particularly in his approach to the calamity which befell him at such
a young age - which he sees as forming the person he is. Without the meteorite, he ponders, he would be a completely different character because his brain would function differently. Despite the epileptic fits, the bullying he encounters, he steadfastly
continues to believe that the meteorite strike has changed his life for the better.
I loved the first meeting between Alex and Mr Peterson - Alex is hiding in
the old man’s shed from the school bullies pursuing him when he sees a silhouette in the doorway: “It was a man. There was a man looming in the doorway and he was pointing at me with a stick - a long, cylindrical stick. It gleamed dully in the
darkness. My heart jumped into my mouth. The man was pointing a gun at me.” So ends Chapter 7. Chapter 8 sets the record straight:
“The gun resolved
itself into what it had been all along. Three feet of lightweight aluminium, grey plastic handle. A crutch.”
As Alex muses: “Fear distorts the
world. Fear sees demons where only shadows dwell. This was the lesson I’d eventually learn.”
The book is full of such unexpected encounters, some funny,
some tragic - Alex battles the Universe and somehow emerges to tell the tale and the lessons learned in his own inimitable way.
Definitely a recommended