Glitch by Lee Rourke

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Lee Rourke brings us a tale that is laced with grief and the quest for belonging, a story of loneliness and trying to find a way, an existence in this world when all you’ve anchored yourself to gets torn away. When the thing that you loved most, the thing that has shaped you, protected you, what has essentially moulded you into the very person you are today… is laying in a hospital bed, unable to speak, and hanging onto life by the most delicate of threads. Glitch and the engaging way it has been written, is what makes this a most powerful and unrelenting read.

‘It cut right through him, deep, right to the very core of his being, tearing him open right there and then. Something that had taken so long to reach them that day on the shore, something so beautifully flawed in its own forming, something which meant so much to him, to them, never returned.’

When getting Glitch I read the cover and thought, here we go, a science fiction book that sounds brilliant and right up my street (thinking it was going to be a bit like The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August) – I think it was the whole glitch thing – that from a glitch (in our case a decompression of an flight), everything that was on that path is now forever changed, everything you thought was going to happen had now been altered in some way and that with multiple glitches things would jump around and change (like parallel universes – separate timelines kind of thing).

And I guess for L-J, our main protagonist, it did. He was expecting to return home to his family and mother, but after that small glitch his life was changed forever – but did the glitch really cause this? Wasn’t he on his way home anyway? Wasn’t his mother sick already? Hadn’t his sister tried to call him? Did the Glitch cause this new event that was waiting for him when he landed? – lots of questions I know, and some get answered, and some don’t. But what I wanted to highlight was that this book is so much more than the jacket and blurb suggest, and in all honesty I feel that the blurb and jacket do a disservice to the words and the deeply rich story that resides within.

I was expecting one thing and Rourke delivers a completely different experience – one which is tender but powerful. One that is heartfelt, and at times unbearable in its honesty on the subject of grief. The keen eyed reader may have seen a lot of books that express grief recently, you have Max Porter’s Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, and his new title Lanny (deals with grief in some form), then you have Andrew Cull’s Remains – you see the thing about grief is that it can appear and consume different people and manifest itself in a variety of different ways; and if we are honest, there is no escaping it. It will catch us all at some point in our lives, it will impact us in ways we were not expecting and it’s how we each cope with grief which is telling. With Glitch Rourke puts his own interpretation of grief across, which I am sure, will resonate with many people!

Rourke’s approach to Glitch is tantalisingly brilliant, his prose is delightfully crafted, and there always appears to be something bubbling below the surface, the rumbling fallout from the initial glitch. Rourke’s words enrapture the reader, and he gives us line-by-line of sweet nectar to feast ourselves on – where we drink deeply and then stumble around drunk on his brilliance, like a fly in a Venus Flytrap, knowing that it will soon snap shut and imprison us.

There is also a fragility to Rourke’s structure and prose, that you feel at any moment the whole thing will come tumbling down (it’s emotive and brave, and honest), trapping you inside this most consuming and captivating of reads. But I guess that’s what grief is like, how it contaminates, like a house of cards before one false move brings everything we’ve built, tumbling down and trapping us within the wreckage of our lives.

Glitch is a terse and poignant story about the shackles of grief and how lives are changed exponentially from the glitches that spring from the fabric of life. An interesting and deeply rich story, which has a frenetic pace and a readability that turns this into a firecracker of a book!

Glitch is published by Dead Ink and is available here.

Lee Rourke

Lee Rourke is the author of the short story collection Everyday, the novels The Canal and Vulgar Things, as well as the poetry collection Varroa Destructor and Vantablack. He is contributing editor at 3AM Magazine, and has written regularly for the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, Bookforum, the Independent, and the New Statesman. He lives by the sea.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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