I have been incredibly lucky in that the last few book I’ve read have been pure genius. Thanks for the Trouble is no exception.
I bought this book when I was in Dymocks in Queen St Mall, forever and a day ago. I had actually gone in there to buy a different book. But when I saw this one there was just no question of me walking out of there without the new Tommy Wallach.
In March last year, Simon & Schuster gifted me the ARC of Wallach’s debut novel We All Looked Up. It was a completely unique look at the end of the world. See, Wallach set it in the here and now rather than in some far off dystopian future. Wallach made the completely extraordinary mundane, but in the most beautiful of ways. And he’s done the same again in Thanks for the Trouble.
What is the most interesting thing about this book is that our narrator, Parker, is mute. He hasn’t uttered a word in five years. You would think this would make the story slow and laggy and all kinds of contrived, and probably in the hands of another author, it would have. But Wallach makes dialogue flow like a river. Seriously. He’s made Parker’s muteness so natural that you don’t notice it. Probably because this story is obviously written down, but I like to think it’s because Wallach covered his bases. Parker uses both a journal to write down his parts in a conversation and also sign language, for situations where people will understand it. So Parker chooses his communication method based on the environment in which he finds himself. I loved it.
The plot of this book is much the same as Holding up the Universe in which two broken people find solace and redemption and, most importantly, hope in one another. This seems to be a massive trend in YA. Or at least, these are the books I’m buying. But when I say “much the same”, I just mean that the themes are fairly similar. How Niven and Wallach attack those themes are incredibly different. These are two very different novels, but the themes of acceptance and unconditional love are the same. Which isn’t a bad thing at all.
In Thanks for the Trouble, Parker became mute after the death of his father; a coping mechanism of sorts. But then it becomes a crutch, an excuse to keep himself cut off from people. Then he meets Zelda, a young woman who wear an expression of “perfect sadness” when Parker first claps eyes on her. Zelda is carrying around her own pain; a pain that we don’t really understand. But these two broken people find each other and somehow make each other feel better.
OK, so, I have to talk about the book’s structure (there’s something you haven’t seen me talk about for a while, right?). So Thanks for the Trouble is written as if it’s Parker’s college application essay. Super cool concept, just FYI. What this means is that every once in a while, Parker breaks into random short stories, to show off his writing abilities. Sometimes these stories are fantasy, sometimes they’re just an alternate reality, but they are still deviations from the main story. This casts into sharp relief the idea of fiction and made up stories and everything like that. So when it comes to Zelda’s backstory, what’s to stop it being just as made up as the rest of Parker’s asides?
Basically, what I’m saying is, you’re kind of left wondering whether Zelda’s story is real or not.
And what is her story? Well, that’s a bit of a spoiler. A huge chunk of the book is dedicated to Parker’s disbelief and then final, inevitable belief in her story. So I wouldn’t feel right telling you. But basically, it’s Zelda’s mysterious past that ends up helping Parker. How Zelda’s past catches up with her is a little different. But again, spoilers.
However, Zelda’s story ties into the overall theme of “people are more than they appear”. Basically that old quote:
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.
But it’s a little bit more than that. What Parker ends up finding is that people aren’t as horrible or prejudiced as he originally thought. They are more than they seem. People accept him for who he is, rather than putting him down for it. You know, when he finally gives them the chance.
I’m rambling a bit, I know. That’s just because this book is so incredible that I want to stay in its world for just that little bit longer. But I think I’ve gone on for long enough now.
All you need to know is that Wallach writes beautifully, he writes beautiful characters, and makes the supernatural exquisitely banal.
Read this book. And then, while you’re at it, read We All Looked Up. I can guarantee you will not regret it.
P.S. I just want to share with you the quote that, I’m fairly sure, inspired the name of this book. It gets slipped into a throwaway bit of dialogue at the end of the novel. Once you read it, you’ll see the title in a whole new light. Then once you read the book, you’ll realise how heartbreaking this is:
Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes
I thought it was there for good so I never tried.