Book Review: Departure Lounge by Chad Taylor

"Departure Lounge" by Chad Taylor is a dark novel with several intertwining seedy undertones. The style is nonlinear. The story is told from the largely apathetic perspective of a career criminal. The stories that make up Departure Lounge's plot are never fully told.

Chad Taylor manages to write a novel about moments, instances in several people's lives, without ever telling a story from start to finish. In this way, it is an interesting novel. However, it is not for everyone with its confusing chunks of life knitted together with snippets of a missing girl's impact on those she left behind.

"Departure Lounge" is essentially the story of two things, the disappearance of a teenage girl and the real life crash of a passenger plane into the side of a mountain. These two events tie all other events in the novel together. However, the girl, Caroline May, is hardly fleshed out as a character. The crash is sloppily tied to her disappearance, but it is never clear why anyone suspected it had anything to do with the girl or whether it actually did, in the end. The crash seems to be used simply as fodder for attention. It was a high-profile crash that could have easily been replaced in the novel as virtually any other made-up tragedy. The fact that it is completely non-essential to the story line that it be that crash or even a crash at all leaves little other explanation for it.

The only thing that keeps this novel from being akin to the jumbled thoughts of a flu-ridden migraine sufferer is the narrator. Mark is an ex-con who has a bad habit of breaking into places and stealing things. He also, inexplicably, spies on women a lot. Through his eyes, we see that he is relatively unemotional about the process. The descriptions of his exploits make the book worth reading. Still, he is slopped in with the other untied strings in the novel and the effect is supposed to be profound. Instead of providing the emotional moments that help a reader catch up to such emotional events, they are told piecemeal with only scant tendrils of emotion pulling the reader in. In short, it could have been better, given the topic matter.

Shelly Barclay

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